BISHOP OF NEWFOUNDLAND TO EARL GREY.
C.O. RECORDS 194 / 130.
St. Johns, Newfoundland,
26th Oct. 1848.
I have the honor to inform your Lordship that I have this summer visited, as part of my Diocese, the coast of Labrador, with the view of ascertaining the moral and religious conditions of the inhabitants, and the best manner of meeting their wishes and wants. May I be permitted to mention that for some time a doubt existed whether Labrador, (being on the American Coast) was to be regarded as part of my Diocese. Neither Lord Stanley, nor the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of my appointment could inform me—and I cannot say that I have been able to obtain any positive instructions to this very day. I have therefore gone upon the presumption that as the Labrador coast is included in, or under, the Government of Newfoundland, it ought also be under the Bishop's superintend once. And, having ascertained that the Bishop of Montreal did not regard it as in his Diocese or intend to visit it, I determined that it should no longer remain neglected.
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My visitation (of the Labrador Coast) has extended from Blanc Sablon, where the Government of Newfoundland commences on the South, to Sandwich Bay on the North. Within those limits or a little farther only to the North, a line of coast stretching nearly 250 miles, (without taking into account the circuit of Bays and Harbours), I have found upwards of twelve hundred settled inhabitants, while in Summer probably as many thousand (12,000) are fishing on the coast for several months.
Nearly all the settled inhabitants are or profess to be, or at least profess a desire to be members of the Church of England, but very few of them had ever, before my visit, seen a Clergyman of our Church. Seventeen years ago Mr. Archdeacon Wix called at one settlement, I presume in a Ship of War. Eight years ago a Roman Catholic clergyman visited several harbors—but with those exceptions I do not know, that within the last 20 years, any clergyman has been on the shore. At the present time there is no Schoolmaster, or Minister of Religion, or teacher, of any character or denomination, till you come to the Moravian establishments at Nain and Hopedale. And the nearest of these is 300 miles beyond the limits of my visitation; though I believe my Diocese extends even to them, and beyond them.
I am unwilling to weary your Lordship, but I pray to be allowed to mention the means which seem to me necessary, and which I should desire to take, if it were in my power, to improve the moral and religious condition of the poor people. . . .
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My desire then would be to place three clergymen on the shore.
The First should have his headquarters at Forteau, and the Labrador coast, from Blanc Sablon to Chateau Bay (about 75 miles), and the opposite coast of Newfoundland (about 40 miles) should be under his pastoral superintendence. His settled, though scattered, flock would number 400 all the year—and in summer many more. The next Clergyman should be placed at Battle Harbor and have the shore from Chateau Bay to Seal Islands (the latter included) in his charge—a distance of 85 miles—with 400 settled inhabitants and immense numbers (not less than 5000) fishing all the summer on the coast. This charge would include 3 merchants' establishments. Battle Harbor is the most populous and most important place on the whole shore.
The third Clergyman might reside in Sandwich Bay and have the whole of that and of the next (Eskuimaux) Bay under his charge and superintendence, and consider his Mission to extend from Seal Islands to Cape Harrison, about 100 miles, with about 500 inhabitants, Eskimaux and Anglo-Eskimaux. In Eskimaux Bay the Hudson's Bay Company have an establishment.
I should desire also to put a School and Schoolmaster in Deacon's orders at Battle Harbour, at which children from neighbouring islands, to the distance of 30 or 40 miles on either side, might be lodged as well as educated. There is no other way in which the scattered families can obtain instruction. At present, I need hardly say, with the exception of a few English settlers, they are all in complete ignorance.
I am in great hopes that the inhabitants and merchants will exert themselves to make what provision they can towards the support of the Clergy and Schoolmaster. There will be some considerable difficulty in making the commencement and raising the necessary buildings.
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I have &c.
Signed: ED., NEWFOUNDLAND.