p. 1755 C
REPLY OF WEST OF ENGLAND MERCHANTS
TO PLEA FOR REGULAR GOVERNMENT.
CAL. STATE PAPERS, AM. & W. I., pp. 560-1.
1732. Reply to the King in Council of the Merchants, Owners and [1668.] Masters of ships of the Western parts to the allegations of Capt. Robert Robinson concerning the Newfoundland fishery. For many years past few have made 10 per cent. on this fishery, and last year both Dartmouth and Plymouth lost considerably. The memory of Sir David Kirke's actions little encouragement for another Governor, which was sufficiently proved upon a commission from his Majesty to several gentlemen of Devon in the 19th year of his Majesty's reign (1667). Placentia Bay was never possessed by the English but was fortified by the French to secure them from the “solvages (natives of the country).” As to fear of God and honour of his Majesty, seeing the country is most barren and rocky, is productive of no commodities as other Plantations, or affords anything of food to keep men alive or employment for the people, they conceive it fittest that some be brought away, and the rest transported where they may not live so idle, and dishonourable to God and this nation, so that the trade in provisions, &c. now mostly supplied from New England, may be carried on by fishing ships from England and the seamen augmented. Laws are violated, and trees, woods, and stages destroyed by the inhabitants' increase. If another Governor follow he will doubtless continue the same. Capt. Robinson will remember what he did himself at St. John's in 1661. From Bonavise north-ward to Trepasse southward is all that ever was and is now possessed by the English, which reaches 300 miles, wherein are 48 fishing places, and if St. John's were fortified and a Governor resident there, it would signify nothing to the other places. Therefore, seeing the many other fishing places that cannot be secured, and that may be done as well by the Admiral, they conceive that a Governor will be more disadvantageous than profitable either to the public or the trade. And lastly, though the charge proposed of one penny per quintal of merchantable fish, and a halfpenny on refuse fish and corr, and 12 pence per hhd. on train, seem so inconsiderable, it will amount to 1 per cent. on fish, and 2 per cent. on oil, occasion vexation to the fishing ships, and hinder the reviving of this decaying trade. Such imposition is positively contrary to several Acts of Parliament, particularly that of the
15th year of his Majesty's reign. Besides they assert that as this fishery through Sir David Kirke's indulgence, contrary to their patent, is already carried on by the inhabitants and boat keepers in great part, so if a Governor be settled and the inhabitants continued, the trade in a few years will be removed from this kingdom, and become as that fishery of New England, which at first was maintained from these parts, but is now managed altogether by the inhabitants of New England, so that not one ship hath gone on that employment out of England these seven years. Pray his Majesty with the serious advice of his Council to consider the premises, and against those pretences and designs to weigh not only the former practice of his Royal progenitors but also the present state of France, so flourishing of late through their fisheries and consequent increase of seamen, and that this is almost the only nursery for seamen, and to continue his former respects for its encouragement and reviving. Indorsed “An answer to Capt. Robinson's proposals.” (Col. Papers, Vol. XXII., No. 71.)