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TESTIMONY OF S. S. SWIFT. S. S. Swift also appeared under the same circumstances and made the following statement:
Is a dealer in fish and oils; is owner of fishing vessels at Provincetown, Mass., and is largely interested in the following-named vessels: Cost of schooner Annie R. Kemp..
$14, 892. 84 Cost of schooner F. Woodruff.
12, 591. 70 Cost of schooner Ellen A. Suift
12, 089. 70 Cost of schooner Willie L. Suift.
11, 426. 46 Cost of schooner Leon S. Suiji.
12, 664. 15 Cost of schooner Ethel Swift.
13, 742.88 Cost of schooner Nellie Swift..
11, 116.91 Cost of fish stores, flake yards, fish butts, wharf, etc., about
105, 524. 64 The expense to run his business was about $8,000 per year.
As an illustration of the profits of the business, Mr. Swift selected the schooner Nellie Swift, and submitted tables for the years 1883, 1884, 1885, and 1886, as follows:
Schooner Nellie Swift, voyage 1883; number quintals, 2,829. Whole stock
$7, 311.04 Great generals
2, 699. 27
1, 244. 37 2, 425. 22
1, 180. 85
Vessel's bills, $868.86; interest, $667.01; insurance, $889.35.
Schooner Nellie Suift, 1884; number quintals, 2,554.
$4, 320. 13 2, 239. 10
One-eighth making fish
Amount oil added ...
One-fourth vessel's part.
2, 208. 49 AMERICAN FISHERY INTERESTS.
Vessel's bills, $1,189.24; interest, $667.01; insurance, $889.35
503.67 2, 745. 60
$5, 880.00 1, 768. 18
Vessel's bills, $1,100; interest, $667.01; insurance, $889.35..
1,080. 62 2,656. 36
Boston, Mass., October 2, 1886.
By Senator EDMUNDS:
Q. What is your occupation?-A. I am a member of the firm of T. J. Jones & Co., commission merchants, dealing mainly in fish.
Q. How long have you been in the fish business?-A. I began in 1861, but was out of it for a time, being in the Army during part of the war; then I have been in it since 1864 continuously.
Q. Do you fit out vessels?-A. No, sir. We are commission merchants, selling fish mostly from the British Provinces, though we deal to some extent in American fish.
Q. Where do your principals mainly reside in the British Provinces?—A. In Nova
Q. In what kinds of fish do you deal?-A. All kinds.
Q. Fresh, or salt, or both?—A. Salted mainly; a little in fresh fish, but not very much.
EFFECT OF THE TREATY OF 1870.
Q. What was the apparent effect, on the fishery trade that you were engaged in, of the treaty of 1870–71, when the laws had been passed to put it into effect, which, I believe, was about 1873; was it not?-A. It began July 1, 1873. You mean if there was any change at that time?
Senator EDMUNDS. Yes.
A. I am not aware that there was very much, except that certain of the cheaper grades of fish could not afford to pay the specific duty. It does not make any difference to my firm whether there is a duty on fish or not, provided trade is good and fish are bringing good prices.
Q. I am not speaking of its effect on your business, as to personal profits, but as affecting the quantity sold, the prices obtained, and so on.-A. The larger prices for fish were obtained about the close of the war, during the inflated period, when all kinds of goods brought high prices. The prices of mackerel, particularly, change greatly from one year to another, without reference to the duty. For instance, the price this year has been double that of last year.
Q. But you did not observe on the occasion of the free fish coming in in force that the prices fell?--A. They fell just before that time, and reaction came in 1871–72. Prices had been exceedingly high up to that time—too high; but a reaction came, and there was a very large decline, and very heavy losses were sustained both in the winters of 1871-72, and 1872–73, just before this treaty came into operation. So that I don't think that any difference would have been shown by the introduction of fish free. In fact, I remember particularly the testimony before the Halifax Commission, wherein it was said by many Nova Scotians and the fishermen of the Provinces down there that to them it was a very good thing to have a duty, because they got so much better prices when fish were dutiable than they did during the years 1871 and 1872, when fish were free. That was simply due to the natural operation of the courses or trade; but they thought they had better have duty on because they got so much better returns from their tish during that time. That, however, was the inflated period during the war and just afterwards, when prices of all kinds were exalted.
Q. That, I suppose, is not your opinion?-A. No; it had nothing to do with it.
Q. That was a delusion?-À. Take this year and last year. Last year prices of all kinds of fish were exceedingly low, and there was a surplus. This year everything except codfish is very scarce, and the prices of everything have advanced a great
deal. In many things we are obliged to-day to go to Halifax or St. John, and to pay whatever prices they choose to ask.
Q. For what kind of fish?-A. For herring, mackerel, salmon, and for shad. However, the capture of shad does not amount to much this year. In fact, the capture of pickle fish of any kind this year is the smallest ever known.
Q. That is true of salmon?- A. That is true of salmon. Mackerel which last year brought $5 at this time are worth $10.
Q. Then how is it that the fishermen think that they are having a hard time?-A. I don't know. I think the figures prove that the fishermen are not injured by duty on fish, because during the
By Senator FRYE: Q. By the freedom from duty you mean?-A. Yes, sir. The fishermen are not injured by the freedom from duty, because during the thirty-one years before 1885 the American fisherinen made all their profit. I have jotted down a few figures
By Senator EDMUNDS: Q. Wait a moment. I want to ask you one or two more questions. I do not think you quite understood, or have not answered my last question. You say that the prices of fish, they being scarce, are higher this year than last?—A. Yes, sir. That has been because there have been fewer fish caught.
PROFITS OF FISHERMEN.
Q. Have the fishermen been making more profit this year than last?-A. No. A few of them have done fairly well, but the greater part of them have made very heavy losses, that is, in the mackerel fishing. In the cod fishery the catch has been large, and it remains to be proved what the result will be. My own opinion is that, all kinds of pickle fish being scarce, the consumption of codfish will be increased, and there is a hope, which there was not a month or two ago, that they may come out and make both ends meet.
Q. But at this moment the fishermen's operations for this year have not been fortunate?-A. Very unsuccessful as a whole. Most of the mackerel fleet will lose a great deal of money; it won't begin to pay; some of them have got nothing.
Q. Although the prices have risen?-A. Yes, sir.
Senator EDMUNDS. Now you can go on and give the figures you spoke of a moment ago.
The WITNESS. The United States census for 1880 gives the capital invested in the New England fisheries at $19,937,607; the product was $14,270,293. I deduct 10 per cent for the expense of doing the business; that is an ordinary allowance in general business; that leaves $12,843,264. Take 40 per cent for the share of the vessels; that is the general settlement for the shares of vessels. That 40 per cent would be $5,137,305, or nearly 26 per cent dividend on the investment in the New England fisheries. That is from the last census report I have seen, for 1880. But the years 1881, 1882, and 1883 were better years. There were larger profits made, and the business will probably show better results.
Q. Why do you stop at 1883? Why not bring your statement down to this time?A. Because in 1884 there was an excessive catch of mackerel, the largest catch ever known, and that was a poor year, owing to the large catch.
Q. How much did they make that year?-A. I don't think they made anything
Q. How much did they make in 1885?-A. I don't know; there has never been any statement made.
Q. Do you mean to say that you can get figures for 1883, and can not for 1884?-A. I have given you figures for 1880, and I say those are the last figures I have seen.
Q. You spoke of 1882 and 1883.-A. I say I know that they were better years in the fish business, but I can not give you the figures. I merely say, in giving you the result for 1880, that $5,137,305 would amount to a dividend of about 26 per cent on all the capital invested in the New England fisheries, and that was considered a fair year. But the years 1881, 1882, and 1883 were better years; prices were higher and more profits were made.
Q. The figures you have given us for 1880 were, after all, probably really those for 1879?-A. No; I got them from the census report for 1880.
Q. But the census was taken in June, 1880, and it must have been taken on the product of 1879.-A. If that is so, that makes it stronger, for 1879 was a poor year. I had taken it to be 1880.
Q. It can hardly be possible, I should think.-A. From 1877 to 1879 were poor years, I know, in the mackerel business.
Q. You have evidently given the figures for 1879, notwithstanding you got them from the census report for 1880; and then you say that the succeeding years up to 1883 were better still?-A. Yes, sir; I say that in those four years the profits, particularly of the mackerel fisheries, were exceedingly large. The schooner Edward E. Webster, of Gloucester, stocked $104,000 in those years (“stocked” is the term used in the business), and, in dividing, 20 per cent is taken for expense of fittings, etc., 40 per cent for the crew, and 40 per cent for the vessel; there is over $10,000 for those four years for a vessel that cost some $10,000 or $12,000. But there were many other vessels did as well.
Q. What fishing was she engaged in?-A. Mackerel.
2. Where did she catch her fish?—A. Wherever they were; they might have been on our shores or in the bay, probably on our shores.
Q. Were you agent for that vessel?—A. No.
Q. Have you been, from that time down to now, the agent for any American fishing vessels?—A. No.
Q. So that whatever your information is, it is not information derived from your personal knowledge of business transactions?-A. No, it is derived from the statements of the owners of these vessels made to our organization.
Senator EDMUNDS. I ask you this question, because, when we go over to Gloucester, which is the grand headquarters of these people, we should call their attention to the alleged very heavy profits that are being made in the business, and therefore I should want to know precisely what you mean and what your sources of information are.
The WITNESS. During the time these vessels were doing so well they were very good to give out for publication the results of their trips.
Q. Was the case of the Webster, which you mention, a case of extraordinary luck, or did that luck apply to the whole fleet?--A. The case of the Webster was probably a case of skill on the part of her captain. He has got a positive genius for catching fish, but there were other vessels that did nearly as well. The Nellie M. Roue was fishing the last two years and she made $55,000, which was really better in proportion.
Q. Supposing the whole number of vessels to be a thousand, what would be the average?-A. That we do not know.
Q. What do you think it would be, taking the whole business together?-A. I haven't any means of knowing what it would be for the whole.
Q. You do not mean to say, then, that you state the instances of the Webster and the Rowe as being fair samples of all the vessels engaged in the business?--A. Not at all; I merely wanted to show that it was possible to make such a large quantity of money. And I remember that the Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, in his report published in 1883–I can not quote from memory-after mentioning some of these large stocks of vessels, made a remark something like this: If it is remembered that these vessels fish only eight months in the year at the utmost, and most of them only from four to six months, it appears that the business has been very profitable for many, and that the greater part of the fleet made fair returns.
Q. That is the Canadian commissioner you speak of?—A. No, the United States Commissioner. He makes that statement in the Report of the Fish Commission for 1883.
WHOLESALE AND RETAIL PRICES.
Q. How do the retail prices of fish in this market compare with the wholesale prices? What has been the advance per pound, or per cent, or any way you choose to state it, so that we shall understand it?—A. I don't know much about the retail prices.
Q. Do you know anything about it?—A. Well, I know that that is one of the things which do not vary very much. The mackerel market now is a fluctuating one, down one day and up the next, varying constantly.
Q. Take it last week, or to-day; what is the retail price of No. 1 mackerel in Boston?-A. There is hardly any mackerel eaten in Boston. Codfish
Q. Do you think there is no retail price?-A. I suppose there is, but I don't know what it is; I never had occasion to inquire; I know that very few mackerel are eaten in Boston.
Q. Take codfish; are codfish eaten here?-A. Yes, sir; I should say that the retail prices of codfish would be probably from 6 to 8 cents a pound.
Q. What grade or number?-A. There is no number on codfish. It is simply a question of bank fish or shore fish.