Bonfoy, Hugh (c. 1720-1762)
Hugh Bonfoy entered the Royal Navy in 1739 as a midshipman, and was promoted lieutenant in
1744. The next year he was promoted to the rank of captain. He was made governor of
Newfoundland in 1753.
Although the Seven Years War did not break out in Europe until 1756, fighting had already begun
in North America. The Board of Trade, uncertain about the loyalty of Irish Roman Catholics in
Newfoundland, asked Bonfoy to conduct an enumeration. Bonfoy estimated there were 2,683
Irish and 1,816 English people on the island.
Their concerns where heightened in 1754 when William Keen, a senior civil magistrate, was
murdered during an attempted robbery. Nine people were charged, four of whom, including one
woman, were executed. All four were Irish Roman Catholics. In reaction, British penal laws were
enforced under Bonfoy's direction. Irish Catholics were not allowed to worship, Bonfoy stating
that "Liberty of Conscience is allowed to all Persons except Papists."
Understandably, relations between the English and the Irish worsened, leading some to argue that
the governor's actions were responsible for the increasing tensions. Bonfoy judged the Irish to be
responsible for the social difficulties on the island, a common perception. He believed they stole
from the other inhabitants because they had no other means of survival, and he pressed the local
magistrates to quell Irish activities.
Bonfoy's term ended in 1754, and he died in 1762.
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