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say that when they come to Boston to buy Nova Scotia fish it shows that the American fishing vessels don't catch all the fish required for the trade of the country, not even mackerel.
Q Or else it shows that those dealers at Gloucester and Provincetown want to fill orders, and not having the fish for that purpose they send to where they can find them?-A. Exactly; that is all I say. It shows that they do not catch them. If their own vessels caught them and they could get them from their own vessels they would not come to Boston to buy them.
Q. If they had them at the particular time when they had an important order?— A. This is lasting right straight through the season. We have had large customers in Gloucester-owners of fishing vessels who have been customers during the year and at all seasons of the year.
Q. A steady trade?-A. Yes.
Q. Who are these gentlemen of Gloucester?-A. The largest firm and the one we sell the most to is the firm of George Perkins & Sons; and we have sold John Pew & Son some mackerel, but not very recently; I don't think we have sold them anything this year; I believe they are the largest vessel owners in Gloucester; they certainly claim to be the largest fish dealers in the country; I don't know that they are, and I don't think they are quite so large as one or two Boston concerns, but that is the claim they make. Those two concerns buy the largest quantity of mackerel in this country. John Pew & Son are commission merchants.
Q Suppose the duty that now exists had been taken off on the first of July last past, would you have sold these fish to those Gloucester people for any less?—A. I presume I should; yes, I think so.
Q. You would have been willing to break the market, take a less price, and make less profit?-A. I think the mackerel from Nova Scotia would have come here at an earlier period. The duty prevented them from sending the mackerel here in the early part of the season, but if the duty had been taken off that would have brought them here earlier, and they would have sold at lower rates. They sold them there because they thought there was no chance to do better. If there had been no duty we could have had the usual supply earlier in the season, but they could not afford to pay the $2 duty, and so they did not send their fish here. If they had been sent here our dealers would have all got them at the lower prices, and consequently could have afforded to sell them at lower prices, and the consumers could have had them at lower prices.
Q. When the prices rose sufficiently to enable the Province people to afford to pay the duty, then they sent them here?—A. Yes.
NATIONALITY OF THE FISHERMEN.
Q. Now state anything else that you want to.-A. I don't know that there is anything else that I have in mind to say, unless it is on the question of the nationality of the fishermen.
Q. Vessel owners and officers, of course, are all Americans?-A. A good many of the captains are Americans, as a matter of form, but they reside in Nova Scotia.
Q. But they are American citizens?-A. They are American citizens; they have been naturalized as a matter of form, but a great many of them go home when the fishing season is over and live in Nova Scotia. I suppose 75 per cent of the crews of American vessels are not natives of the United States. The two counties of Inverness and Cape Breton, in the island of Cape Breton, and Shelburne and Yarmouth, in Nova Scotia, furnish about five thousand men to our fleet. As to what other localities furnish I do not know. The cry was made last year that the fisheries were a training school for the Navy, but that was so absurd that I thought it worth while to mention it.
COMPENSATION OF FISHERMEN.
Q. How much, if you know, do these fishermen of the Provinces, fishing in British vessels, make in a season? I mean the crew.-A. The crews of mackerelmen go on shares. The cod-fishing crews are paid about $125. There is another point: The claim is being made that this is in the interest of American fishermen. During the time of free trade, before duty was put on, the fishermen were paid from $225 to $240 for a season, but that has been cut down to about $125; it has certainly been cut down 40 per cent. That was justified by the condition of the business. Trade was languishing, and fish were bringing low prices, and they had to cut down their prices. So this shows whether or not it was in the interest of the fishermen to have the duty put on.
Q. You know a good deal about this Nova Scotia business and the prices paid to the crews of the British fishermen. Do you know in what form their wages are paid, whether they are paid in cash when they arrive in the ports of Shediac, Charlottetown, Halifax, or wherever; or does the fisherman have a running account with the fitting-out man, and have goods charged against him for the use of his family and himself, and then settle at some time or other?-A. I suppose he has an account in some cases; it may be one way or the other.
Q. Have you any knowledge about that?-A. No; I haven't any special knowledge. Q. The British mackerel crews, if I understand you, go on shares?-A. Yes; and their cod-fishing crews, too.
Q. I thought you said the cod-fishing crews were paid in cash?-A. In the United States.
Q. I am talking about the Provinces.-A. In the Provinces very few of them, so far as I am aware, are paid wages.
Q. When you were speaking of codfish just now, did you mean American?-A. I meant American; I meant the American vessel owners had reduced the compensation 40 per cent.
Q. Then what you said about it being reduced from $225 to $125 applied to American vessels? A. Yes, sir; that is about what they have been paid, so I have been told.
Q. Now I understand you to mean that all the provincial fishermen go on shares?— A. Almost entirely.
Q. Substantially?-A. Substantially.
DIVISION OF PROFITS.
Q. Leaving out the officers now, what share do the crews get?-A. The usual division is 40 per cent for the vessel and 40 per cent for the crew.
Q. Then what becomes of the other 20 per cent?-A. The 20 per cent is expenses of fitting.
Q. How is that 40 per cent for the crew divided between captain and mate, if there is a mate, and the regular fishing hands?-A. I don't know. I don't think there is any universal rule about it. I think some captains who are better fishermen than others-and there is a vast difference between them, you know-get better pay.
Q. That is according as they can make the lay? A. Yes; that is the usual and ordinary division.
Q. You had some reports you wanted to submit, did you not say?—A. I will leave them with you if you would like them.
Q. What reports are they?-A. They are reports of our fish bureau.
INCREASE AND DECREASE OF CANADIAN FISHERIES.
By Senator SAULSBURY:
Q. You are engaged in the fish business with the Provinces. I would like to ask you whether there has been, within your knowledge, any very large increase in the Canadian fishing fleet for the last few years?-A. I tried to get statistics on that last year from the inspector-general of fisheries for the Provinces; I have forgotten his name. He did not have any very complete record. Their fleet increased considerably about the beginning of the treaty of Washington, but last year it had fallen off considerably since 1879; 1879 was the highest point it reached, and it is considerably smaller to-day than it was. From 1879 to 1883 it increased, and since that time it has fallen off. But they had not got it figured up in the Dominion of Canada, and did not seem to have full and complete particulars. So far as he did give me information, however, I should say that it increased for a time and then decreased.
Q. Do you know whether the cause of that decrease was by reason of their sales of fishing vessels to French fishermen, or whether it was on account of any falling off in their business? Do you know whether they have made any large sales?—A. I don't know whether they have made any large ones or not. I have known of instances of vessels being sold to the French, because I have had drafts sometimes on that account, but I haven't particular knowledge as to the number. There are very few Nova Scotia vessels now engaged in mackerel fishing; that has fallen off very much; they used to send a great many vessels into the bay. They now catch them with hooks, nets, and traps from the shore. Their mackerel fleet has fallen to almost nothing. I don't believe that there are twenty-five mackerel sailors in Nova Scotia to-day, when they used to have quite a considerable fleet.
PACKING IN BOND.
Q. If I understand you aright you attribute the fact that you make sales of fish in bond here, which are packed in Nova Scotia, to the tariff that is imposed upon the fish?-A. Certainly.
Q. You think that the present tariff on fish has had the effect to prevent the shipment of fish here for the purposes of packing?-A. Yes. The Treasury laws do not allow packing in bond. That is a strict construction of the law, made by the present Secretary. Formerly, when the duty was on, and at the time when Judge Russell was collector at Boston, he took the responsibility of allowing fish to be packed in bond. The law says that neither fish nor anything shall be repacked except for the purpose of immediate preservation. I hold that it was for the purpose of immediate preservation, inasmuch as the fish could not be shipped to the West Indies in bulk. But the Treasury construction of the law is different.
By Senator FRYE.
Q. That is a new construction?-A. Yes. Their construction of "immediate preservation" means that the fish would spoil unless packed. We could not say that. We simply say they could not be shipped to the West Indies in bulk. Being shut out from that, by that ruling, we are now having fish packed in Nova Scotia and delivered here in bond in casks.
By Senator SAULSBURY:
Q. If I understood you aright, the result of that is that it deprives American labor of what it ought to have?-A. Yes: it deprives coopers, cask-makers, packers, and men employed in packing fish of the labor they ought to have.
Q. If you can form any idea I would like you to state what amount of labor is thus taken away, by the operation of this construction of the law, from these coopers, packers, and other laborers you mention.-A. That I do not know. The fishing business is not a very large business compared with many other kinds of trade. The whole of the fish business of Boston is perhaps not more than that of one wool house. It is a small business in itself, but then, so far as it goes, this ruling does deprive these men, who have been engaged in packing, of their labor.
EFFECT OF INCREASE OF TARIFF.
Q. What would be the effect upon the fish business of an increase in the tariff?—A. It would make it easier to sell in bond. As far as the export trade is concerned, the higher you put the duty the easier it is to advance the price in bond and the more facilities you have for underselling American fishermen. For instance, the duty being now 56 cents, we can sell codfish packed at about the price in bond that they would get duty paid. If the duty was $1 we could sell them 50 cents per quintal cheaper than they could produce them duty paid.
Q. About what percentage of your sales of fish is to the West Indies and other points in the foreign trade?-A. We have no foreign trade ourselves, but we sell to exporters. I have never made any estimate of the amount of fish exported, and do not know what it is.
Q. You do not export, yourselves?-A. Very rarely. We have not done so for several years. We sell to exporters. There are certain houses in Boston and New York that have this business with Haiti. That is the only West India trade we have here. The Haiti trade is the main foreign trade, and there is considerable of that in Boston and New York.
By Senator FRYE:
Q. To what countries do we export fish?-A. I say to Haiti.
Q. Do we not send some to France?-A. No.
Q. Do we not to Canada?-A. We did export some to Canada before the duty was put on.
Q. Do you know of any country to which we export fish where fish are free?-A. No. As I say, our export is mainly to Haiti.
BOSTON FISH BUREAU.
Q. I want to ask you a few questions about the fish bureau; I think Mr. Edmunds did not ask you about that. What is that institution?-A. It is a trade organization.
I do not belong to it at present, but did last year. I went out of it, thinking I was going to change my business. It is an organization composed of fish dealers and commission merchants. Anybody that is interested in the fish trade can become a member.
Q. Then it is not limited to commission merchants?-A. The majority of them are dealers; the commission merchants are in the minority.
Q. It is a general association?-A. A general association of the trade, comprising most of the principal dealers and commission merchants; some have belonged to it at one time and at another.
Q. Mr. Rich does not belong to it?-A. Not at present; he went out some two or three years ago, I think.
Q. No fishermen belong to it, I suppose?-A. No; at one time-a few years ago—it was more general, and we had members in Wellfleet and Provincetown. Then this Gloucester bureau was gotten up, and those men wanted to go into that, and we concluded to keep ours separate from the Gloucester bureau; but for a few years anybody could come in who was interested in the fish business.
Q. With whom is the bulk of the commission merchants' trade conducted? For whom do they sell?-A. Some of us almost entirely for provincial shippers; others more largely for American shippers.
Q. Take the commission merchants altogether, and is not the bulk of the trade with the Provinces?-A. I can not say exactly. The domestic trade of commission merchants was increasing until within a few years, and the fishermen had to go to market and sell their own fish, but they are giving it more and more to the commission merchants here.
Q. Are not a good many of your commission fish merchants Canadians?—A. No, sir. Q. Are some of them?-A. One or two very small dealers, who do not amount to anything.
LETTER IN THE BOSTON HERALD.
Q. Who was that gentleman whose letter appeared in the Boston Herald after your visit to Washington in which he gave instruction to the members down there in the Provinces as to what they ought to do?-A. That was a private letter.
Q. It was published in the Boston Herald.—A. It was a private letter and its publication was a great breach of confidence.
Q. Then you would not like to say who wrote it?-A. I would not; I do not think there is any occasion to do so.
Senator FRYE. I do not require it. I thought I would like to know, as a matter of curiosity.
TESTIMONY OF EDWARD T. RUSSELL.
BOSTON, MASS., October 2, 1886.
EDWARD T. RUSSELL Sworn and examined.
By Senator FRYE:
Q. You reside in Boston?-A. Yes, sir.
Q. What is your business?-A. General produce and fish commission merchant. Q. Are you a member of the bureau?-A. Yes.
Q. How long have you been a member?-A. Since its organization.
Q. How long have you been a fish commission merchant?-A. Forty years nearly.
Q. With whom is the bulk of your business conducted?-A. It is about equally divided between the Provinces and the domestic ports of Massachusetts and Maine. Q. Please state whatever you desire to, touching the relations between United States and the Provinces with reference to the fish business.-A. I would like very much to see fish from the British Provinces come in free. I think, from the experience I have had during the existence of the two treaties, that the general business has been good. The prices obtained for our domestic fish have been good. With perhaps a few exceptional years the fish business has been paying about the same as any other business. That continued until 1883, I think it was, when there was a culmination of very high prices, particularly on codfish. Then came a rapid decline,
just as there was in everything else. Low prices have not been confined to fish by any means, but have applied as well to sugar, flour, grain, iron, and everything. Prices have been phenomenally low. I would not go so far as to state that I would hold out very strongly for fish to be absolutely free, if it was thought that our fishermen needed protection, but I hardly think they do. I do think, however, that they need to be relieved from taxation on articles that enter into the construction of the vessels and many other things. I would rather go back to what the duty was before we ever had a treaty, and then it was 15 per cent. I think 15 per cent is a pretty wide margin for competition to overcome, and that is fair.
Q. That was on all fish?-A. On all fish, dried fish and pickled fish of all kinds, as you will see by the old tariff act. That act did not prohibit, as the duty does now, the importation of low-priced fish. There are a great many kinds of fish we can not produce, and I can not see the necessity for the duty.
Q. Such as what? Name them.—A. All kinds of herring—not all kinds, there may be some exceptions; but all kinds that are what you call food fish, particularly for this part of the country. You can't catch a fat herring on the coast of the United States; that is my experience; I never knew of one or heard of one. herrings they are catching on our shores and bringing into this port by the thousand barrels every day are not the kinds of fish people would call eatable; they do eat them, but they are consumed principally among the manufacturing population that want something cheap. On the coast of Labrador is caught the finest herring in North American waters. Last year there was a very large catch, upward of 50,000 or 60,000 barrels, of which I suppose nearly 25,000 barrels came into the port of Boston, and we sold rising 13,000 barrels of them.
Q. At what prices?-A. We began at $4.75; then with the depression on account of the great quantity and with the depression of everything else, they went down until we finally sold this spring at $2.25, which brought the shipper in debt; one of the shippers owes me to-day. This year there is no catch-that is, we have heard that the catch of the Georges did not exceed 5,000 or 6,000 barrels. I sold one little cargo this week at $6 a barrel. There is a certain quality they will have if they pay $10.
EFFECT OF DUTY.
Q. You do not charge that at all to the duty?-A. I charge it to the scarcity of the market. Of course, the duty makes my business harder to do, but there is a certain quantity of business to be done here, and I am going to have my share of it.
We can't get any salmon in this country unless we bring them across from Oregon or San Francisco.
Q. Do we not get them from the Pacific coast?-A. Oh, yes; I say we do. But those salmon do not compete with the Northern salmon. They are used for almost an entirely different purpose; that is, a different class of people buy them. It may, perhaps, be a mere fancy, but the great bulk of Northern salmon imported here are smoked. It is a little peculiar that a man will buy a whole salmon because it looks better, that is, a salmon that has a head and tail on, before he will the salmon that comes from the Pacific coast that is cut in pieces and pressed, with the head and tail cut off, and that will never bring so good a price although it is just as good to eat. There are some few exceptions, but that is the rule, which, in fact, is getting to be absolute.
By Senator SAULSBURY:
Q. Do the Oregon canned salmon come into this market?-A. Oh, yes; very largely.
By Senator FRYE:
Q. Do you deal in frozen salmon?-A. We do to a limited extent for some people who ship them to us. We take anything that comes to us from the Provinces.
EFFECT OF DUTY ON THE CONSUMER.
Q. What is your idea of the effect of the duty on the prices to the retailer and to the consumer?-A. It is pretty hard for me to answer that question; in fact, I have never been able to fully make up my mind. Sometimes it stands out very evident