The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume IV


Page 1712
sponsored by
Sandi & Ken Tulk,
Manuels, NL

p. 1711                                         C

No. 709.



        The story of the formation of Guy's Colony, called by the founder “Sea forest plantation,” is one of the most interesting episodes in our early annals; as there is no detailed information about it in any extant history of Newfoundland, I have set forth all the facts that can now be gathered from the contemporary records. Young Alderman John Guy is a striking personality, shrewd, pushing, energetic, and full of ambition. The company consisted of most of the men of light and leading in James's Court. Bacon was undoubtedly the guiding spirit in the enterprise, whilst Guy and Roberrow were the working members.
        We find the same individuals who were in Peckham and Gilbert's company members of Guy's association. They had become so impoverished by the dismal failure of Gilbert's unfortunate adventure and Raleigh's colonisation schemes, that when John Roberrow, John Guy, and others were appointed to committee to confer with their London associates, they decided that the scheme was quite feasible, and would be profitable and of great value to the kingdom, but a portion of the charges should be borne by the Government. As far as we can ascertain, this took place in 1607. Undoubtedly the company was the outcome of the various projects put forward by Peckham and Algernon Sidney and Carlyle, who were both Walsingham's sons-in-law. It was only by immense Court influence that money was obtained from the Government. The Stuarts as a dynasty were perennially impecunious, and it took three years' pleading and all Bacon's influence to get the desired subsidy; it must have been considerable, as Mr. Alderman Guy and his shrewd merchant associates appear to have only put in a nominal sum, less than £100 each, payable in five yearly instalments. In 1610 the charter to Bacon and his associates was issued under the Great Seal.¹ This instrument is very full and comprehensive, it is a far more practical and statesmanlike document than the loose grants of Elizabeth; the extent of territory covered by the charter is defined—from Cape St. Mary's to Cape Bonavista. The public right to the fishery is specially reserved. Guy's instructions show clearly that the charter was a dishonest attempt to give away to Court favourites land occupied and possessed by Englishmen long anterior to the grant.

¹ See appendix to this chapter.

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        After obtaining his title deeds, Guy sailed from Bristol, May 1610, with his brother Philip, his brother-in-law Colston, and thirty-nine persons, in three ships. From the records of Bristol and other sources we are able to give a pretty accurate account of their proceedings. They had carefully chosen the site for their new colony. Old Newfoundland traders were evidently connected with the company, and all their arrangements were planned by persons well acquainted with the trade. There remains a MS.* containing the—

COMPANY, 1610.

        “You shall furnish yourself with at least twelve months victualles with munition nets and with all manner of tooles and implements (and you shall make choice of the) skill and mannuall arts of such as are to go with you that you shall think important for the advancement (of the colonie).
        “As the benefit and use of domestic creatures without whom not onlie any desolate countrie but also a (civilized countrie) could not well be inhabited we would have you take with you a small number of evrie kind of them male and female water and other things needful for their transportation not (placing them on the sea shore) but either by islands or necks of lands between Bayes where together with the care of a herdsman they shall escape from wild beasts and so increase and multiplie of which number (we would) not have anyone killed without great and urgent cause.
        “When it shall please God to send you and your Companie into the Newfoundland we would have you make choice of some place which you shall find fittest within the limits of the country assigned unto us in order to plant our said colonie. The Baye of Concepsion we prefer before other places for the first attempt.
        “Upon your first arrival there the sooner to operate our patent and to prevent ye murmuring of suspicious and jealous persons that perhaps will not (fail) to spread abroad that this enterprize wilbe to the prejudice of ye fishermen as well of our nation as others. We do hould it expedient that you call an assembly of all the fishermen that shall be nere thereabouts and there in their presence openlie and distinclie cause to be read the graunt under the King's Majesties great seal which you shall have along with you, that by the tenour of it they may be satisfied that there is no intent of depriving them of their former right of fishing which being done you shall declare in the presence of them all that you enter upon that place to take actuall seazin and possession (never by grace and assistance of God to be discontinued) in ye name of the whole country comprehended within the said grant to the use of us and our associates our heirs and assigns to be holden of our sovereign Lord the King by the rents and services secured by the said graunte and that by such your

        * I was fortunate enough to find this most interesting document—the instructions from Guy's associates about the management of the plantation; the paper has been partially burnt, but the principal part of the contents have been perserved.—B.M. MSS. Otto E., VIII. 5.

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acte the King's Majestie of England is actually invested with the title and supreme digniteie next under God of the said country.
        “How you are to spend your time ther ewe need not particularlie (put) you in mind of being in good hope that according to the opinion we do conceive of you all matters shall be carefullie providently and paynefullie ordered and that there shall be no wasting of the victualles nor time misspent in idleness but all industrious courses practised to set forward the enterprise as manelie buildings to be rected for habitation.
        “ . . (text burnt) . . (With the) returne of the ships after the fishing is ended all fish (which you have) made (and shall) not need for your own use (re)ceive to be transported to England and if it may be (bought?) you may also send some quantity of that wine which you . . . . that trial may be made of it as also of the zansaparilla (to see if it) be good and what else you shall judge fit to be sent.
        “If you can buy any train (cod oil) for eight pounds the tonne or (there-abouts) we would have you to deale for it for the use of the Companie and charge us by exchange for th epayment of it and to take or send to Bristoll and failing thereof to keep it in your warehouses until we do send for it in the winter time for we doubt not that ships may harbour themselves there in the winter in Januarie or Februarie seeing out of the Grand Bay being 4 degrees to the northward it is a thing yearly experimented that ye Biscainers remain until December. If you can buy there 60,000 of good dry fish reasonable you may likewise do it and charge us home by exchange and place it in our warehouses until we send a bark thither to take it in and to go with it there home to Spain which coming there alone may sell better than that which came first the great glut marring oftentimes that market.
        “You shall as soon as may be conveniently done make choice and bring to the sea shore a ships lading of masts sparres and deal boards to be in a readines to reload any ship that shall happen to be sent unto you with salt which you used in fishing or to be sold to ye fishermen. By employing of shipping of great burden the trade between Bristoll and Newfoundland may be profitable. We are in good hopes that you shall find sufficient cargo there with which the said ship shall be reloaden.
        “And if any persons employed in this service shall be found to be seditious mutinous or in any manner unfit you shall by the next returne of any ship from there home send them home to be discharged giving advertisement of their behaviour.
        “And for the succession of the principal or head of this enterprize if it should please God to take him away it is though mette that such person shall succeed him as the said John Guy shall nominate under his hand writing and for default thereof the successor shalbe there unto elected by most of votes of the persons that shall survive and if equal votes the lot to be cast whether of them shalbe preferred.
        “And we would have you to assay by all good meanes to (capture) one of the savages of the country and to intreate (him well and) to keepe him

p. 1714

and teach him our language that you may after obtayne a safe and free commerce with them which (are) strong there.
        “We learne that there is found there and no question (fernes?) whereby may be gathered that yf workmen experte to (make glass ? were) now sent with you with such forraine simples as the mixture of mettall requireth you might presently rase glass to . . . . . nevertheless for more certaintie we now forbear onlie would have you send home some of the fearne (i.e. kelp) dryed and some . . . (that) it may be considered of.
        “Every ship that resorteth thither to fishing bringeth with them (sawyers?) to make or mend their fishing boates which may well be supplied (by you with) pine boards whereof you shall have plentie when ? the saw is set up.
        “Such ashes as you make keep and send to Bristoll that we may have tryall of them and that thereby it may be the (better proved) whether such sope ashes as come out of the Sound may (not be sent from) there home.
        “And to the end that God may bless this attempt with happy prospects and success you must take order that divine service be publicklie (held) and attentive hearkned unto and that you joine in devout prayers to God that the worship of him may not be neglected that pietie and charitie and sobrietie may dwell amongst us and all swearing and gamming abolished.
        “You must not forget to search whether there be any trees thereabouts that will afford timber to make caske and be servicable for hoopes we have heard that pipes have been sometimes made of pine timber and for hoopes young beach will werve. the birch being there large and great as yt is yeeld? for a neede? stuffe for the caske and seing it is most certaine that oakes are in some places of this country you may peradventure upon search light upon some place where it grow.
        “To make experience of the nature of the country for sheep were not aims because there want not warme and firtill places and abundance of poules things most requisite for that kind of husbandrie.
        “The cherrie trees and peare trees and filbred trees by removing and graffing may prove as good and as large as ours and for the filbreds though they are small yet they are good and being gathered when they are ripe may do you some pleasure we would have you send us home a few of them (for in) flanders they guy barkes lading with hazell nuts to make oyle for which (we) do (think that) these will serve as they.
        “(We) require you to have a due regard (to the carrying out) of these our instructions and of all such (as you may in) your discretion judge may any kinde of way to (turn to the use) and benefit of this enterprise committed to your (care).”



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