Webb, James (? - 1761)
James Webb was probably born in England. By 1728 he was serving in the British navy.,
becoming commander of the Jamaica in 1745 and the following year, captain of the Surprise.
Webb was a keen naval officer and, as a captain in Seven Years War, he demonstrated
considerable skill in capturing French privateers. Webb commanded the Speedwell, the
Sunderland, the St. Albans, the Hampton Court, and the Antelope. He was made governor of
Newfoundland in 1760.
Webb's skills were put to good use in Newfoundland, where he captured a number of enemy
vessels while patrolling the waters of the island, particularly along the French Treaty Shore . His
most famous capture was the French privateering vessel, Tavignon, in Noddy Harbour near the
tip of the Northern Peninsula. Webb burned the ship and some French fishing stages. Its cargo of
approximately 3600 quintals of fish was eventually sold by Newfoundland fishermen. The 125
fishing ships that sailed to Newfoundland that year were effectively protected by Webb's ability.
Webb attended to the regular duties of governor: selecting magistrates, hearing court cases,
administering land leases, and repressing illegal trade. Webb also ordered fairer business practices
between merchants and fishermen. In 1760 Webb took three captured Inuit to Chateau Bay, gave
them gifts, and released them. As an expression of gratitude, the Inuit returned with whalebone
for trade; this stimulated more regular commerce with the Labrador Inuit. Webb claimed Chateau
Bay for the Crown, charted it, and renamed it York Harbour.
Webb's last service as governor of Newfoundland was escorting ships to Spain and Portugal to
deliver fish. In 1761, he became ill while preparing for his return to Newfoundland. Webb spent a
short period convalescing but he never returned to Newfoundland. He died soon after at
Plymouth Sound, England.
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