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LETTERS AND ADDRESSES OF MONSIGNOR AND OTHERS
Transcribed by permission of St. George's Diocese, St. George's, Newfoundland
|No. 1-||Dr. M. Howley- to Miss Sears||- 20/12/'85|
|No. 2-||Address to Dr. Howley at Channel||- 23/01/'86|
|No. 3-||The French Shore, Thomas Sears||-|
|No. 4-||Views on R.R. Scheme, Thomas Sears||-|
|No. 5 and 6-||Agricultural possibilities of the West, Thomas Sears||-|
In the following pages a few letters will be found which are of special interest.
The longer ones could not easily be incorporated in the narrative without perhaps
destroying the proportion of it. Besides, extracts from them would hardly be sufficient.
Dr. Michael Howley to Miss Honora Sears
" St. John's,
" My dear Miss Sears:
" If anything could help to lighten the heavy burden of your sorrow in your great affliction of the loss of so good and holy a brother I think it will be the news that I have been appointed by Rome to take his place. Not that I can in anyway hope to do so especially in your regard adequately but because as you know it was his most earnest desire....
"Sincerely in Xto,
"M. F. HOWLEY."
Address to Dr. Michael Howley at Channel, Jan. 23, 1886
"Very Rev. and dear Sir: On behalf of the Catholics of Channel, and speaking in their name, I ask you to accept from us an 'esto perpetua' upon your arrival. The good Monsignor always led us to believe you would succeed him and we rejoice that our Holy Father deemed you the most fitting successor to carry on the good work. As we have been in the past, we will be in the future, 'faithful and true.'
"Your obedient servant,
"JAMES W. KEAT1NG."
A Proposal for the Solution of the French Shore
I copy here from a draft copy in the handwriting of Monsignor Sears. I am unable to state the name of the party to whom it was addressed. The first four pages are missing:
".... the one is a sterile rocky repulsive region affording encouragement only to the drudging" fisherman, while the other presents a view of extensive plains of rich alluvial deposits just as if in some of the great revolutions of the earth the soil had been washed off by mighty floods setting in from the East and South and deposited all in the West and North. The same rule stands good in Cape Breton. In fact, look at the vast continent of North America, contrast the barrens of the New England States and indeed of all the sea-board States, with the inexhaustible fertility of the Pacific sea-board and see what a contrast. California with
Massachusetts. Now I ask, what would Nova Seotia have been if only the Eastern Shore were attended to by the Colonists of that fine peninsula? What would the United States be if only the sea-board were cared for or colonized ? That which these places would be if the Western and interior portions were neglected that Newfoundland is, and will be, no matter how great her resources in fish maybe, till the Western portion of the Island is looked after. But it will be said, 'what can be done for the West as it is the French Shore and it would be against the interests of the French nation to have that part of the Island colonized?' This would seem like a perfect Bug-bear to cloak the apathy and indifference of selfish politicians, who it would seem enter on the political arena more with a view of self aggrandisement than with any desire to advance the prosperity of the country. Why the slightest reflection will convince any intelligent mind that the French question is altogether a fishing question and the colonization of the vast fertile plains which run miles into the interior of the country, in some parts, would in no way interfere with the French in prosecuting their avocation on the French Shore. If such deference is to be paid to the French it could be made penal on the new, Colonists to fish in these waters. I for one would hail such a law as the greatest boon for the future Colony. In a former letter I referred to the contrast which is found in Nova Scotia between the fishing and agricultural districts. The same would soon be evident here and it would be to our advantage to have a law enacted that would protect the young men from being allured by the attractions which fishing as well as sailoring affords to the buoyancy of youth.
"With this project well organized, Port-aux-Basque would soon grow, into a city and would centre in itself the fish trade on this part of the Island which now finds
its way to Halifax:. Port-aux-Basque is nearer Liverpool, nearer: Quebec and Montreal by some 400 miles and is near enough to the West Indies and the United States to become the second emporium, of trade on this Island. And now that fine harbor. Which I am told is second to none in Newfoundland, is a desolate wilderness, not one house or scarcely another object, to mark the footsteps of civilization. Channel has attracted all the fishermen and the harbor- that harbor which is open at all seasons of the years left desolate.
"I have referred in the first of this letter to some of the various dangers and evils which the absence of all improvements or means of internal communication brings on. I will just say a few words to explain what I mean and then bring this communication, which I fear will be tedious to you, to a close.
"Owing, to there being no means of communication between the different localities we are all exposed to a great deal of danger. For now, part I owe to a merciful Providence the preservation of my life more than once. On the memorable night of the 07th October, a Rev. Mr. Legallais, a church minister, was lost coming from Isle au Mort to Channel.
" Is it not heartrending to witness such scenes as these in a place where nature, it would seem, intended that all the modern and improved means of communication should have been employed long ago, if anything like justice were done to the place.
' But I will not tire your patience any longer. I hope, my dear friend, that you and all our confreres in and about St. John 's will exert yourselves during this Session of the Legislature to press on the Government the necessity of taking immediate steps to open roads through this district. You are perfectly at liberty to make any use your prudence may suggest of the information my letter conveys. Even the Journal of the
House which I received bears testimony to the truth of the greater part of what I assert. There can be but two objections made to the demands I make and it may be well to anticipate them. The first is what the Government are not able to secure the sum required. The second, that after the roads were built the people would not go to live on the land.
"To reply to these objections I begin with the last. I do not suppose that those who have been an: time at fishing would all at once become farmers. But let the money - be not to build the roads, and given to an experienced engineer, or rather the right to lay it out-then let notices be sent the different parts of Cape Breton and the adjoining counties in Nova Scotia whence a sufficient number of competent laborers would at once be procured, these, as a rule, would be farmers' sons or farm servants. Now, from my knowledge of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia and the difficulty that young men have in getting farms there, and also the superior fertility of the soil which they would at once perceive, there would be scarcely one of these but would purchase a farm of the line. In this manner the most of the money would return to the Government. Of course, many of the able-bodied men of Codroy, as well as of Bay St. George, would join them. As to the first objection, that of procuring the necessary funds, I hope for the honor of Newfoundland and the credit of those who govern it, that there will be no cabal about it. A sum equal to that required to build one mile of railroad in Nova Scotia would open the road to Bay of Islands. When we consider that Nova Scotia built one hundred miles of Railroad, and that the whole Peninsula as well as the Island of Cape Breton, is a perfect net work of good roads in all directions while the revenue received amounted to not more than $2.00 per capita, should not Newfoundland, with her $4.00 per capita revenue, build
at least one line of road to open up the most important part of the Colony ? I perceive from the Journal for '57 page 258, that the French would have surrendered all claims on the shore of the whole district to which I refer from Cape Ray to Bay- of Islands and such concession was demanded all the part of the British statesmen on account of the superior inducements which this part of the island affords for purposes of colonization. I believe that concession as partly rejected by the St. John's Legislature, this I fear, vas a great mistake. However, this agreement has been carried out to the letter on the part of France, for they hold exclusive possession of Codroy Island, Red Island and Port-au-Port while British subjects line the shores of the Bay and are never interfered with by the French. From this I infer that the latter power will have no objection whatever to the colonization of the interior by good staunch farmers.
" But enough, although there are other remarks which I could make but these will, I think, suffice for the present.
" THOMAS SEARS. "
Views on R. R. Scheme, Thomas Sears
"Revd. dear Sir:
"I have much pleasure in acknowledging the receipt of different parcels of newspapers which you had the extreme kindness to send me, as also to acknowledge my indebtedness to your kindness for making such
good use of the papers which I sent you-many thanks. "I am asked whether the Railway through our fertile valleys here would not be better than a common road? I say by all means let us have it, if we can accomplish it, but for many reasons, to which I shall refer later on, I fear that our chances in this far West are extremely meager. Not that I do not believe that it should be the policy of our Government to extend the road this far. Indeed, if justice were done, it should commence here simultaneously with the Capital, but there are, as you are well aware, so many wires to be drawn before the main centre of action is reached that for my part I fear it would be perfectly useless for us to attempt putting in our claim for such a boon. We have no representatives to put our cause forward as it should. For this reason I would be quite happy if I could calculate on getting even an ordinary carriage road through our fertile valley.
" As you are an earnest and sincere advocate of anything that would tend to advance the prosperity of our Common country, I am happy to have this occasion of placing my views before you.
"First then my views are favorable if the thing is at all feasible.
" The first section of the Railway should be constructed in such a manner that it would at once do away with the anomaly of the position of our Capital being as it is at the extreme end of a succession of promontories forming the peninsula of Avalon. This anomaly is such at present as to put the agricultural regions of the colony out of the reach of many who would wish to invest in that important pursuit.
" Therefore at the first inception it is imperative that no portion be built diverging to the right or left but extending at once to a given point whence it would become of immediate utility to the public. You know
that whatever view I take of this matter is irrespective of party politics.
The gand object of the Railway being to open up our fine agricultural districts? We have to see that it be managed so as to expedite as much as possible the effectual development of our most available agricultural land. Now, I must say that the great plateau W.N. West of the long range of mountains is eminently the best land on the Island. If my testimony be not sufficient in this matter the scientific researches of our Geological surveyors, as embodied in the geological map it this Island will amply show that what I say is correct. Now I do not find that there are provisions made by the Railway Act for constructing the Railway for this part. This is a point on which I rely on your patriotism and high sense of honor to aid me in bringing effectually before the Government. But I must explain more explicitly what I mean.
' Let us have it, but let it be commenced and managed so that the grand object for which it is undertaken be arrived at as soon as possible. I find that although our Executive may have this in view still either from predilection for one part or want of correct information in regard to the other part they are for opening out first one part of the Island, whose capabilities are not at all equal to the West, and where at best agriculture can only be introduced at a great outlay to the Government. Whereas by a different Modus Operandi, a place can be reached at much less cost where there cannot remain a doubt as to its adaptability to agriculture without any expense or responsibility to the Government and where a good beginning is already made. I am asked could not a Railway he better for our Codroy Valley than a road. But we have reason to fear, notwithstanding all
the good intentions which are entertained in regard to the West, that our part of the Island is to receive no benefit from the projected Railway, but on the contrary, the very limited and tardy means that we now command will be lost to us. Thus, at least for a long time to come, indeed, we can see no indication of any such liberality on the part of our Legislature, no matter what party is in power, to do us even-handed justice not to speak of such a boon as a Railway.
"But to be brief, according to the spirit and the letter of the Railway Act passed last year, we cannot expect any benefit whatever from it, e.g., that act enables the Receiver General to expend money at a limited rate per annum on the line from St. John's to Harbor Grace and then indefinitely further. I would like to know then when that Railway would reach the Codroy Valley and St. George's Bay. Given that it is the intention of the Executive to extend the good work finally to our great valley.
"What are we to do in the meantime? How are we to prepare to put our lands in such a condition as will enable us to produce that which is to be sent on the Railway to the Capital when finished. I may be told that the Government intends to do justice to us and will finally make the lofty mountain chain which fringes our valley re-echo the snorting of the Iron horse, but I ask how many years hence? A new Railway Act must be passed. The present one will not bear the Government out in extending the road to the French Shore. But even admitting that it should be pushed on so as to reach the head waters of St. George's Bay, the Codroy Valley would derive no more benefit from its presence there than it would from one built to Trepassey. Even the St. George's Bay Valley would not be much benefited by it without at first having the same outlay of money for a common road that we now ask for. Where
then ,would he the advantage of building the Railway first if the same outlay be required after it is finished. The advantages of the common roads before the Railway for these parts are as obvious as they are numerous.
" All the surplus produce that the climate is fit to yield, viz: live stock, fresh meat, butter and vegetables, can be shipped to St. John's from the harbors of St. George s, Channel and sometimes from Codroy Harbor or Grand River.
"The present population of St. George's Bay especially, over two thousand, will be enabled to retire a distance into the interior and give their energy to the cultivation of the soil if only a good road be opened by which they could sell their productions to the harbor. Live stock would be their principal export for the present. By means of such a good road at once they could drive these to the Harbor to ship to St. John's. To my own knowledge as fine a cargo of cattle could have been procured at St. George's last summer as that which was shipped from Codroy, but owing to the absence of any mode by which they could bring the animals to the shipping port they had to keep them, and as these were a surplus of what they had, I fear they had to sacrifice them.
"Please do not prejudge that I am to turn against the Railway project; the sequel will show that I am its true friend. But I want it so arranged that our present agricultural population be not left to die out or get disheartened before any, benefit can be derived from it by them.
' Then it will be said your theory is: let the Railway stand till all the common roads are built. This would be to destroy its prospects altogether for this generation. No, I do not want this.
"The view then that I am to propound is one in which the unbiased judgment of the Colony will agree
with me. It is this: the need of a Railway to the West end of the Isthmus of Avalon without delay is self-evident. Let the survey, commenced last year, instead of diverging, to Harbor Grace, be pushed into this western extremity of the isthmus. I am far from being adverse to a branch line being extended to Harbor Grace at the proper time and if I live to see the productions of the west wafted by steam to the Capital on the iron Road I shall be the strongest advocate for a branch to that delightful harbor. But in the name of humanity, in the name of common sense, where is the use in sending a railway at such an enormous expense to a place where
Not a pound of butter
Not a pound of mutton
Not a dozen of eggs
can be spared to send back to St. John s ? And as to the little freight in the shape of merchandise or supplies coming from Europe via St. John's, these can be brought by the present steamer or by a weekly sailing fore and after. I may be told that the travel between the two places would warrant the railway being extended there at once. That is a fallacy. If street cars could not be made to pay in a populous city like Halifax, how can anyone say that a Railway from St. John's to Harbor Grace can be kept up? I know that I will be told that it is only the beginning of a more extensive system yet to be built. I answer the first object in view as mentioned above being to open out the best agricultural districts, these are not on the way to Harbor Grace. To come direct to the point, it will require some miles of line diverging from the main one; now that line must cost at least as much as the line through Prince Edward Island, viz: £4,000 to £5,000 per mile or
£24 000 to £30,000 at the lowest calculation. Then the whole extra distance to reach Harbor Grace will cost in the vicinity of $600,000. Now the quarter of that sum will build a carriage road from Port-aux-Basque to Green Bay. The whole amount will build a carriage road from the end of the Isthmus of Avalon to meet the one from Port-aux-Basque at Green Bay. These two lines will dissect each and everyone of the fertile valleys that we can boast of, and place them within reach of the agricultural immigrant. Where then is the wisdom of leaving all that we have or value in the country dormant and expending our resources in making a railway to a place where there is neither need nor use for it till the other parts be reached? My great hope for the opening up of the country was the Railroad after, of course, the common road had paved the want. But I was so disappointed to find that Harbor Grace was the only place that our Legislators definitely aimed at for the Railway that I nearly lost hope in the project altogether. And were it not for the certain knowledge I possess of the inexhaustible wealth of the West which absolutely requires a railroad to develop it, I would have fallen into the ranks of the most strenuous opponents of the project.
"What I would propose then is this: when we have means to open a Railway to Harbor Grace, let us instead make for the Western end of the Isthmus of Avalon. It is evident that that point is as near as Harbor Grace. When there it will not be far from the head waters of Fortune Bay. Simultaneously with this and as a means of realizing the benefits to be derived from it, let two grand lines of common road be constructed at the same time, one Northwards through the Valleys of the Gander and Gambo and Exploits, the other from Port-aux Basque to Notre Dame Bay. Half the amount saved by not diverging to Harbor Grace will open these two
Roads. Who is there so obtuse as not to see at a glance that this is of infinitely more importance to the future prosperity of our country than would be a connecting line with Harbor Grace? Just let us suppose the Railway finished tomorrow to that Harbor. Then should a stagnation of trade take place, should there be a war or some other thing that would cause a cessation of public works, where is the traffic to keep the construction in motion and the road in repair ?
"But, on the other hand, let it be finished to the head of Fortune Bay. In this case an immediate change would be brought about. Our productions from the West could find their way through that channel to the Capital without the risk incurred at present. The coastal service is reduced by one-half. But, more important still, our communications with the Continent of America will be much facilitated. Our present link of communication from St. John's to Halifax, 600 miles, will not be one-third that distance now that the Canadians have extended their Railway to the Straits of Canso. It will be only the matter of a short time when they will have it to Sydney. Then when we have an efficient boat running tri-weekly to Port-aux-Basque we only require seventy miles of a connecting link and tri-weekly communications with America and via America with the rest of the civilized world will be the result. What an improvement this will be on our present system of only fortnightly communication in winter. When Sydney harbor will be closed the harbor of Louisburg will be always open."
The following letter, which I copy from the rough draft in the handwriting of Monsignor Sears, lacks the first page:
"But, setting aside the value of the land altogether (which, after all, would not be the best way to invite immigrants) see what an addition it would make to the annual revenue.
"Now admitting I might possibly be mistaken in my calculation of the cost of building the whole road and that instead of costing £30,000 it should cost double that amount (which it will not, except there be criminal waste in its management), even £60,000, at 6% per annum, would only amount to £3,600 interest. But it has been shown that we have double the superficial extent of Prince Edward Island in land fit to locate settlers on, leaving room for further improvements and contingencies will only ask at first for an additional population equal to that of the Island referred to, 100,000. It is well known that the revenue collected in this country amounts to the sum of £1 sterling per caput on all the inhabitants; then the additional 100,000 comers would add £100,000 annually; that would pay the interest and leave a nice balance of £96,000 a year in favor of the colony; something worth the Legislature's time to attend to.
"It may be said that, as farmers, they would not
need as much imported goods. But it is well known that farmers will require West India produce, cottons, clothes, groceries, etc., as well as fishermen, and it is on this sort of goods that most of the customs duties are imposed.
' I admit that the opening out of the road to Placentia was a very necessary undertaking inasmuch as it opened a means of communication direct by land between the Capital and the large Bays on the southern shore of the Island, were it for nothing else than for transferring the mails, etc. The success which had attended that undertaking reflects credit on those who were mainly instrumental in carrying it through considering the obstacles which stood in their way from the rough, barren and marshy nature of the country through which it has passed, and also the class of laborers who alone were available at that time. The success of that undertaking is also a sufficient guarantee that all the rest of the Island can be opened by roads. One thing I can vouch for is that roads on the side of the Island will not cost even one-half the amount per mile of what was required to build the road in question.
"But with regard to the Placentia road as a place for locating farmers, I say positively that from Holyrood to Placentia, with the exception of a small valley of the Salmonier and a few farms at Colinet, there is no land fit for farmers. I am told that there is good land in Bay St. Mary's; that may be, but outside of that I can safely aver that the whole peninsula was never intended for agriculture.
"This remark does not refer at all to the beautiful little plateau on which the village of Placentia is built; the high esteem in which the locality is held only shows in which esteem the people of the East would hold a place in which they could see whole districts as even and picturesque as Placentia, where the soil is by
nature as fertile as that of the latter place is rendered by art and culture, if they could only visit it, and such places are within their own Island.
In the course of time when agriculture and factories will increase the wealth of the country and land will be in greater demand, then the peninsula of Avalon could be rendered serviceable by converting portions of if into a sheep walk. I fear that I am treading on dangerous ground in making these remarks, but I am constrained to do so by- the force of truth.
"I believe there is good sense enough among the inhabitants of Avalon to give me credit for sincerity even should I tell a truth that would not be palatable. My object is not to disparage the peninsula in the slightest degree but to show how its natural defects could be remedied by- a wise legislation. I know the people of Avalon are above yielding to any petty feeling of useless yearning for what cannot be.
" No more suicidal police could be followed by any people than to yield to any morose discontent because that there should exist any advantages elsewhere not at their own door, or be swayed by a feeling of depreciation of the resources of other places at a distance. Petty local jealousies have been the cause of untold woes in poor oppressed Ireland for centuries. Such feelings are uncongenial to this side of the Atlantic. See, for instance, how soon the Newfoundlanders and other Colonists on the Atlantic sea-board learned to appreciate the superior advantages of the interior of their territory. How soon were the slopes of the Alleghenies scaled and the productions of the fertile vales of the Ohio and Mississippi made subservient to the growing wealth of the sea-board. A like policy once commenced in Newfoundland would have the same results and inaugurate a new era. What would the seaboard cities of Baltimore and Philadelphia, Boston and
New York be today had they followed the principle heretofore followed in Newfoundland?
"And now what is the reason that the natives of St. John's and of all parts of the peninsula of Avalon not only help to swell the already dense population of these cities, but, in a word, people new cities and towns which their courage and energy mainly built up in other parts of the sea-board States?
"What can the cause of this great evil to Newfoundland be? Nothing else than that lethargic, un-foreseeing, unprogressive policy which never looked scarcely beyond the environs of the Capital for other branches of industry which abound and which, if employed hand and hand with the fishery, would have rendered St. John's a successful rival of other cities and Newfoundland a prosperous country. This is no mere chimerical idea but a theory which I can prove by the clearest demonstration, and will probably do so, in refuting the following objections:
"Objection: But according to your theory our fishermen in the East and all over the Island would, and could not, be benefited directly by your project, for it is evident that you do not expect our fishermen on the land, but only strangers. Where, then, is the justice of taxing our fishermen for the sake of the strangers?
"The objection may be correct in the premises, but I totally deny the conclusion. Fishermen will not make farmers I allow. But then it does not follow that farmers will aid fishermen. I must proceed to proof. But first I ask one or two questions. How comes it, I ask again, in this Island possessing every advantage that could reasonably be expected that so many of its inhabitants leave their home and go abroad to seek elsewhere that livelihood which is denied them in their own country? Is it that they are taxed too highly at home? Not a bit of it. There are no direct taxes at all in Newfound -
land but in the country to which they go and in which they can make a comfortable living there are taxes on everything, even the note of hand bond. Not so much even as the infant as the adult can be interred without the payment of a tax.
"How is it that the natives of Newfoundland go to that country and submit to all that taxation? And they actually go in such large numbers that they man many vessels from that country to come back and take the codfish off the Bankss and shores of their native land and by that branch of industry alone help to enrich the land of their adoption. Surely there is something wrong here.
"On this Western shore I 1net vessels from the United States, Yankees as the: are called, and what sort of Yankees? Why all Newfoundlanders from the Captain to the cook. I understand from there that the greater number of the vessels employed on the Grand Bankss of Newfoundland are manned principally by Newfoundlanders. Why not these men stay at home, catch this fish as they now do and thereby enrich their own country, I have put these questions to some of those men I mentioned, they answer invariably that the Newfoundland merchants will not fit out vessels for them as the Americans do and consequently they cannot earn at home their livelihood which is so abundantly supplied to them abroad.
"It is a singular fact, shown by the latest statistics, that the fishermen of France and the United States derive each as much benefit from the Cod fisheries of this Island alone, including bounty, as do the inhabitants of the country from the Cod and Seal combined. What wonder then that prosperity would not reign in the land. being confined as it is to one staple branch of industry and can avail itself of only one-third of that
branch even. The other two-thirds being taken off by foreigners.
" It may be pleaded that there is no help for it, that the Americans and French, being large and prosperous nations give such bounty that it is perfectly useless for this poor Colony to strive to compete with them. I admit that the argument is correct at present, but I assert that such a state of things should be tolerated but as short as possible.
How is it to be remedied? Some will look abroad for the remedy. I assert that it can be got within our own borders and without surrendering our autonomy. We must act like the character in the fable; we must put our shoulders to the wheel and whip our own horses. But should it by any possibility happen that we could not succeed, which is not at all likely then we might pray with less dishonor to Hercules for aid.
"The whole burden of my argument in all I have written was to show that the presence of an agricultural population must be the foundation stone of our future prosperity. But to show how their presence would benefit the fishermen and justify the action of the Legislature in opening up the country would need more time and space than the concluding paragraph of this long letter to illustrate, suffice it to make the following remarks:
"Get from 100,000 to 900,000 of an agricultural
population into the country. That will be an inducement to opening up the mines already discovered and likely others will be discovered. This will, in all probability add to the population another 100,000 in mining operations, tradesmen and professional men. That will create the necessity for another large number of factory operatives. These combined would in a short time show a population of a half million, who at the present rate of import duties would swell the revenue to something like $250,000.00. This being accomplished, see then what you can do for your fishermen. you can put them in a position by means of bounty, to compete with either Frenchmen or Yankee in any market in the world.
"As a first installment, let the petition of the poor people of the two Codroy Rivers be granted. These asked for a sum of £1,500, and even overlooking the fact that this will be on commencing the great work of opening up the country; these poor people have the most just right to what and be required to connect with settlement with their market town. They have all been contributing to the revenue as well as any others in the Colony and never got one penny in aid of one object, school, road or anything else, and their quota must be considerable, being some 500 souls. I must say that the sum they ask is small. There will be some twenty miles to bring the road to the heart of their settlement. It must be borne in mind, too, that for the first ten miles from Port-aux-Basque the country is of the same nature as the rest of the southern shore, consequently these ten miles will be as difficult to construct as any ten miles from Holyrood to Placentia. I am told that that road cost nearly £300 per mile. But, considering that more experienced workmen can be procured in the West, I have no hesitation to say that we can get it built for £200 per mile even in that most difficult part.
But whatever these ten miles may cost I will guarantee that once Cape Ray is passed the road will not cost one-half the sum per mile. In many places twenty pounds will make a mile of road. Let these poor people then have their road opened for them and that will be so much for the good work done."
The Absence of Agriculture - The Great want
Two papers prepared for publication by Monsignor in which his views on this important matter are fully set forth.
CENTER>Nos. 1 and 2
The following are articles prepared for publication by the late Mgr. Sears on the question of Agriculture. is they may be said not alone to give his views on that subject but as showing the extent of his study of the question they are given in full. When I say in full however, I must add that a short portion of the second paper is missing. These were published in the local papers, as the following will show:
"During his last visit to St. John's, the Rev. Fr. Sears did me the favor of leaving with me for perusal, two short papers which he had prepared on the present condition of Newfoundland, giving me permission at the same time to publish them if I thought it advisable. The Rev. Fr. Sears is highly respected by all denominations, not only as a zealous and laborious clergyman, but as a gentleman who has at heart the best interests
of his adopted country, and who has been for years, by tongue and pen, calling public attention to the rich natural capabilities of this Island and urging their development. His earnest patriotism, his high attainment; his wide experience and thorough practical views, combine to secure a respectful consideration for any opinions he may publish regarding the best methods of promoting the best interests of our common country. He has long been impressed with the necessity of opening up the country by roads, so as to enable our population to engage in the cultivation of the soil, without which no real advance can be made. The publication of the papers referred to seems to me specially opportune at the present time, when increased attention is directed to our agricultural resources. I, therefore, venture to ask for them a place in your columns.
"It is proper to state that these papers were written before the Legislature sanctioned the construction of a colonization Railway, by an Act of last Session and hence they do not contain any reference to that project. Fr. Sears confines his attention to the construction of ordinary roads.
"It is an axiom laid down by, the experience of ages that without agriculture no country can prosper. 'Agriculture,' says a modern author, 'is the foundation of national prosperity, and one of the noblest, as well as one of the most pleasant and profitable pursuits in which a man can engage.' Where agriculture flourishes all other branches prosper; where it declines everything
else goes down. When we contemplate the comparative absence of agricultural pursuits in this otherwise favored Island, what wonder if are confronted with a want of prosperity in every department? What wonder that, notwithstanding our untold mineral wealth and our unrivaled fisheries, our country makes but slow strides in the path of national prosperity?
"Who, or what, is to blame for this? is a question that now begins to engross public attention. Is it the fault of our climate? No, our climate is far milder than that of Lower Canada-Quebec. Is it the fault of the race that has peopled our land! It cannot be, for we are blessed with that same happy blending of the Celt and the Saxon which has caused the great Continent of North America to surpass all former nations, if not in the extent of its wealth, at least in the rapidity which has marked its strides in the unmistakable path of national importance and wealth. Is it again the absence of tillageable or fertile land? I answer again emphatically, no. I am prepared to show that we possess soil in Newfoundland that surpasses anything of the kind to be met with in the neighboring provinces.
"Some may object that the quantity of such good land is limited. I reply again that, although in comparison with the extent of the Island the quantity may be considered limited, still there is a belt of fertile land extending from Cape Ray to Notre Dame Bay, almost of equal extent with Prince Edward's Island. Now, that little Island contains a population greater than ours by forty or fifty thousand, notwithstanding that its industry is confined almost exclusively to one branch, viz: Agriculture. And here we are in this Newfoundland of ours, with fisheries unsurpassed, minerals inexhaustible, with, at the least calculation, as much fertile territory as that very Prince Edward Island, still our advancement in the path of progress is
something like that of the snail climbing the May pole, and this is all owing to our want of Agriculture. Some will say we have a good deal of agriculture. I reply, the agricultural pursuits of Newfoundland are merely incidental, an adjunct to the fishery. This is really the case along the sea-coast in the adjoining colonies; and the position of the sea-board population in the other provinces would be as bad, if not worse than ours, were it not that when these periodical reverses in the fishery take place, the presence of an agricultural population in the interior averts the evil.
"The question then arises: What is Newfoundland to do? Is she to remain behind the age when each of the surrounding colonies advances, when nature has provided far less for any of these than for her! Certainly no Newfoundlander having any spark of patriotism lurking in his breast will say, No!
"The great question then is, what is to be done? To any one acquainted with the progress of colonization in any part of the vast continent of North America, and especially in the neighboring Colonies, the question is easy of solution. It is simply this:
"Let proper steps be taken to introduce an efficient agricultural population and every other branch of business will flourish.
"How to do this is the next thing. Some will say still that this is not feasible. I am prepared to prove that nothing is more so. And, further, I am prepared to show that no Colony that has been settled from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of St. Lawrence could have offered better facilities in their inception than is now available in Newfoundland. To collect immigrants within her borders she need not send agents to Ireland or other regions at enormous costs, to bring immigrants and then maintain them for a period, as has been done even in Nova Scotia a few years ago. No, all we want
is the tact of an able statesman who will lay down a suitable programme and carry it out energetically.
" From the calm retreats of the west, where the wants of the whole country can easily be scanned, I will take the liberty, though not a politician, to make a few suggestions. I purpose to show conclusively how, without any outlay-even in looking after immigrants when they come it is in the power of an effieient administration (such as I believe we have now) by one masterly stroke of statesmanly policy to accomplish all that is wanting to inaugurate a system of progress which in a few years will place Newfoundland as nature has intended her far in advance of any of the Maritime Provinces. The programme would be this: 1st-enact an efficient Statute Labor Law something like those in force in the different Provinces of the Dominion. The reason why I put Statute Labor first is on the principle of 'putting our own shoulder to the wheel.' This subject will require one article for itself, for it is second to one other item only in the programme: without it all others would be futile, as shall be seen hereafter. 2nd- I have shown above that a region of fertile undulating territory, equal in extent to, and not very different in form from the fertile Island with which I am contrasting Newfoundland, lies in a wilderness state in our interior. Why do we not utilize this territory, It is admitted on all sides that the great drawback is the want of an efficient agricultural element among our other pursuits.
"Together with our present fishing population, let us have 100,000 more on the agricultural region referred to. The capability of our soil to maintain such has been officially proved by Alexander Murray, Esq., our worthy geological surveyor, also Mr. McLeod and many others. There is no question of it. From many tests it can easily be proved that our soil surpasses in fertility that
of the favored Island above mentioned, especially in point of yielding grasses (sic).
"Why, then, not have one or two hundred thousand more of agricultural population? Nova Scotia, with as rigid and repulsive a southern and Eastern Coast as ours, has over 370,000 of a population on some 18,000 square miles: we should have at that rate some 860,000 on our 42,000 square miles. But enough; now to the remedy. The means I propose for changing this state of things are these: unlock the Treasuries of the interior our principal and safest source of wealth. Our agricultural territory is like the wealth of a miser in an iron safe the key of which could not be found, but the wretched being would rather die of want than incur a trifling debt to purchase another key .So it is with our country. We have in the immediate vicinity of the copper region of the North the territory referred to capable of supporting at least 900,000 inhabitants on agriculture alone. The wealth of the copper region, in connection with this land would, in all probability, double our population in a short time. Without an agricultural population, to absorb and retain in the country the wealth earned by operatives at our mines, that wealth will like that which is derived from the fisheries be taken away to procure, abroad, the provisions which we can produce as well and even better in our own territory if we only get the key. Without this unlocking Newfoundland will always be what she has been heretofore. Wealth untold can be gathered within her borders; but, alas, not for herself; no, only the dross remains with her; but to other lands the spoil will go; successful miners, like successful merchants, will retire to other lands when they have made a fortune.
"Now if justice were done to Newfoundland, her scenery and her climate would be as attractive as those of other countries, and would be as likely to entice the
successful miner and the successful merchant to build himself a villa, and thus spend his days and disperse his money in the land in which he made it.
"These results will follow the natural effect from cause, if our Legislature will just take matters seriously and do a little direct legislation. Three steps only are required:
2. Make a loan of a few thousand pounds and put it in the hands of an experienced, conscientious and responsible person who will see that things are well managed. This amount will open a road from Port-aux-Basque to Notre Dame Bay.
3. Let the Government do another act, which the commonest justice or reason will require, viz: Let there be a connecting link made at once with the steam system of the Dominion, at Sydney and say at Pictou, N.S.
"This must be done simultaneously with the other enactments. The reason of this step becomes self-evident from the fact that by means of that connecting link, and the inducement afforded by the laying out of the sum above referred to, the surplus population of Sydney and East Nova Scotia would soon find their way into our fertile territory. They would first come as operatives on the road, as well as the mines. This would give them the advantage of seeing the fine lands. That would be enough. Colony after colony would settle there.
"The time anticipated by the keen anticipation of the late Dr. Mullock seems to be approaching. In an interesting lecture on Newfoundland, he asserted that after the vast continent of North America would be settled, when land would become scarce, they would turn round and make for the fertile plains in the West
and interior of Newfoundland although a few years ago this idea would be buried in the far distant future."
"Now to the practical carrying out of our programme, the third item must be considered and acted on at once.
This is the establishment on a solid basis of a complete connecting length between our steam service on this Island and that of the Dominion at the most convenient points. The present system is perfectly absurd; and were it intended to preclude the possibility of its extensive service being the means of bringing any immigrants to the country; it could not have been more effectually devised. I need not occupy space to dilate on its absurdity. I will institute a parallel case in another land, in regard to which prejudice will not obscure our vision. Let us take Great Britain, for example, let us suppose that fair Island depleted of its population tomorrow. Let the seat of Government be at Aberdeen, and that the few inhabitants of the country were mainly located in and around that City; what would be thought of the wisdom of its politicians, if holding the destinies, as they did, of the realm in their hands, and knowing that the only way to secure prosperity was to secure a wholesome influx of the surplus population of the continent, what would be thought of their wisdom or statesmanly ability, if, instead of facilitating the transit of passenger immigrants direct from Calais to Dover they would oblige unfortunate adventurers from France, Spain and Italy, Germany or any other parts, to go first to Hamburg and Copenhagen, thence take passage at great expense and loss of valuable time over hundreds of leagues by sea, to be landed at the metropolis of the north, and then to
be obliged either to reship at a greater sacrifice of time and money, or trudge his way without road or path, through mountain and river till he reached the fertile valley of Essex, Sussex or Cornwall? This is an exact and not overdrawn picture of our system at present. We have steamers, it is true, coming to the West, largely. subsidized by the Government. Those steamers sometimes; to suit themselves steal over to Sydney, and there being no official or even private notice given, any poor adventurer from that port wishing to come to Newfoundland, would have to turn his back to Newfoundland, go two or three hundred miles to Halifax, then take passage in a liner, a distance of some six hundred miles and then be landed in a place three times farther from the place of his destination than he was when he made up his mind to leave home. Nor are the obstructions in his way yet removed. He has the honor, it is true, to be landed in the Capital. Then, after some days delay he may again take the steamer to the West, only to be left at Channel, to have to remain there, perhaps another fortnight or venture a couple of hundred miles more in an open boat, or by land without road and in some places path; and then if he wants to only reconnoitre the country he has to wait a month before there is another opportunity. It will be well if he will get one in less than that time. Then he requires two or three weeks to get home. It will take nearly three months. And what distance has he got over?
600 miles to St. John's
400 miles to St. George's
That repeated in getting back means 2,600 miles, when, with a proper mode of intercommunication there would be only 160 miles to St. George's or for the double jour-
ney 320 and three or four days would suffice to go and come.
"Another consideration is that whereas we have a steamer already running fortnightly West as far as Channel, it would he far cheaper to get the American mails brought by that route.
"Port-aux-Basque is within some eighty or ninety miles of Sydney, a place connected by daily mails, as well as by tri-weeky steam-communication with all parts of the continent of North America, a connecting link established between these two ports with a good road from the former to the North-east, would increase traffic and encourage such a stream of passengers that it would require steamers to run constantly to the West.
"Newfoundland wants population. It is admirably adapted to support them. It must absorb on every side. But, as arranged at present, it may be compared to a large oak growing in a fertile plain with only one root growing in only one direction. It could not thrive; but allow it to shoot out roots in all directions and then see how soon it will become a stately tree. So it is, and will be, with Newfoundland, till there are means of intercommunication on all sides afforded. Some, I doubt not, will say: Oh, but this is meddling with the French Shore. Permit me to say positively this is not correct. Port-aux-Basque is not on the French Shore, neither is Notre Dame Bay. But a road can be extended from one of these points to the other without ever touching on the so-called French Shore; and this road will tap the fertile regions referred to, and enable any and all who wish to settle there without any interference whatever with the French or their fishing rights. Therefore it is plainly evident that only one obstacle stands in the way of accomplishing all that is necessary to inaugurate a new era of progress and prosperity into Newfoundland, and that is so easily removed.
"Simply let the Legislature procure a loan of from £95,000 to £30,000. The interest on this would be only £1,200 per annum. Should we get, as a result of this loan, an increase of population, say 100,000, as we certainly will, that would yield a revenue of 83 times the interest per year.
"But as to costs, although I say £30,000, I feel positively it will not require that sum. I know the country sufficiently well from Port-aux-Basque to the vicinity of Grand Lake, a distance of at most 190 miles. That distance can safely be undertaken for £100 per mile- £12,000. From Grand Lake to Hall's Bay can be calculated at something higher. But let us suppose this portion to be difficult, say it will cost double what I have calculated for the other portion £200 per mile- £22,000, leaving £8,000 yet for roads on either side of Grand Lake.
"Now where is the difficulty of bringing about so desirable an end? Here is a plain practical solution of all the difficulties that impede Newfoundland from advancing like other Colonies.
"To remove this difficulty only one energetic stroke of policy is required. Locate some one or two hundred thousand of an agricultural population here, with as many more who will be employed in our minerals, this will necessitate the presence of nearly as many more as factory operators as well as professional men and mechanics; that will give something like 600,000. The traffic for such a population will create the necessity for a railway that will bring it into effect at once.
"What is the use in delaying this undertaking? Each year that the inception of such a scheme is deferred is retarding our country and we are losing an opportunity for improving that may not be recalled. Now especially is the time when the mining fever is high and every
thing stagnant, both in Great Britain and in the neighboring Continent of North America.
'"I hope our Legislators are the men for seizing the golden opportunity. This is the programme:
2nd. A Road from a winter sea-port in the southwest to Hall's Bas in the north. Of course, such a road would branch off indefinitely in all directions in due time, and would likely be continued to Bonavista and Trinity, thus reaching all the good lands.
3rd. Direct communication with the Dominion.
"Of the first of these and I finish my task-Statute Labor. I know that there will be a hue and cry against Statute Labor in Newfoundland, and why " Is it not a well known fact, there are statute labor laws of some kind? In the neighboring Republic it is so strict that not only is all property taxed for this purpose, but there is a per capita tax besides, and the provisions of this Act are so stringent that any American citizen absent, it may be for years except naturalized elsewhere, will have to pay $4.00 per annum, even while absent, as soon as he returns. Why should not we Newfoundlanders, work for our country? What oceans of blood have been spilt; how many valuable lives have been sacrificed; how many widows made and left destitute; how many lordly estates confiscated; how many tedious marches; how many sleepless nights have multitudes passed to save or build up their country! God has bestowed on us, Newfoundlanders, a country if not as beautiful as some of these, one at least which can easily become one well worth living in, if not worthy dying for it.
" Search the history of Nations, from the dispersion
of the sons of Noah to the settlement of Manitoba or Kamskatcha and you will search in vain for a people who have not labored and toiled for their country; all, all, except we Newfoundlanders. But when it comes to taking, few are more bashful of our patriotism than we of our patriotism. We hear of few people louder in their proclamations of loyalty to their country than ours, we would wish to see some signs of it in their works. As kind Providence has placed us in an age and position that we are not called on to make great sacrifices for our country, let us make at least a small one. We should not refuse the small sacrifice of a little labor. An able statesman has said that - "good roads and clear fields were the saving Bankss of a country." Let our people show their patriotism towards their country and their desire to advance her interest by doing a little statute labor each year. This done, the clear fields will soon follow. Without statute labor the revenues of no country are sufficient even to keep roads in repair, not to speak of opening them. Can Newfoundland form an exception? By no means. While the fisheries were good a small population might be maintained for a time, but even the natural growth of that population will need the introduction of the new order-otherwise they will have to emigrate. It is to be hoped that the present Premier, who has done so much for our country already, will immortalize his name by carrying through and afterwards enforcing a practical statute labor law on the model of that in force in the neighboring provinces.
"We may be told that this would be a bold step as that measure would be unpopular. Granted, but the experience of nations goes to show that some of the most important measures ever passed were extremely unpopular at first. But in carrying them through in the face of such opposition did their promoters prove their statemanly ability. And although in some instance the pro-
moters were made to feel the weight of the popular indignation, posterity will bless them.
"The consideration of its necessity for the prosperity of the country will urge all Newfoundlanders, all lovers of their common country to applaud, nay, to support the men who will have the wisdom to enact and energy to enforce a practical statute labor law.
"This is the work that now awaits our strong legislature. This is the confederation that will secure prosperity for our country. The programme is easy:
2nd. A loan sufficient to connect by passable road the copper region of the north with the seaport on the south open to navigation in the winter.
3rd. The connecting link with Sydney."
There is not a person in Newfoundland with sufficient mind to understand any of the great works of the North, but will say at once that the road must be open from Hall's Bay to the waters of Grand Lake. Then with a small steamer on that beautiful sheet of water, over sixty miles, and the connecting link with Sydney from Port-aux-Basques thence regularly to St. George's and there is the whole work set.
Transcribed by Bill Crant (1999)
Page Revised: February - 2003 (Don Tate)
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