Garrison Life in the 18th Century (continued)
Nevertheless, military service in Newfoundland remained an economic
hardship. Many soldiers had to find ways of supplementing their incomes.
Occasionally, they worked on building or repairing fortifications, for
which they received additional allowances. However, the money did not
compensate for the additional wear and tear on uniforms and shoes, and
when the authorities refused an increase in 1771, the soldiers became
what one officer described as "artfully lazy" (Janzen, 1983, 134). In
the end, the defence works were built with labourers imported from
In any case, soldiers usually turned to unmilitary activities. Some sold
rum to fishermen, or had their wives do it. Others worked in the fishery.
This was a common practice throughout the century, though technically
forbidden by law. Sometimes, garrison commanders forced their men into
such activities, garnering most of the profits even as the soldiers
supplemented their rations. There were many complaints from the merchants
and no end of friction. Thomas Lloyd, the commandant at St. John's in
1705, was court-martialed because he "put into practice all sinister wayes and base means he could devise to get money"
(Davies, 1981, 196).
His successor, John Moody, operated three fishing boats when the garrison
shifted to Placentia, and purchased land from the departing French which
he then leased to English merchants. His men kept liquor houses and sold
cheap rum to visiting fishermen.
|Quidi Vidi Harbour, 1801.
It was at sites like this one that soldiers would often
work out of to supplement their incomes.
Courtesy of the Newfoundland Museum, St. John's, Newfoundland.
Moody's successor at Placentia, Samuel Gledhill, was even more rapacious
and self-serving. Out of an annual salary of £638, Gledhill managed to
amass a personal fortune of at least £10,000 during his 13 years in
command there. He owned 24 properties, including fishing rooms and
shipping, and he controlled the regional wholesale trade. In effect,
under Gledhill the garrison played much the same role at Placentia that
commercial establishments did at Trepassey, Harbour Grace, and Trinity.
Garrison soldiers often had little choice but to become active in the
fishery. In 1700, Lieutenant Lilburne at St. John's was suspended and
dismissed for using soldiers as labourers in the fishery. Yet his
soldiers had received no pay or supplies of clothing since their
arrival in 1697. In 1699 the barracks burned down. With no pay,
no clothing, and no secure quarters for his men, Lilburne was
forced to accept provisions from the merchants, paying for them with
the labour of the soldiers in his command. Such abuses of power, and
the related friction with the local population, faded away after 1729,
when the naval commodores also became civil governors, with authority
over the local military. Naval supervision helped reduce the worst
excesses and abuses of the military. And, as the local community grew
in size and complexity, the military population became a smaller
proportion of the whole.
©1991, Olaf Janzen