p. 1764 C
REPLY OF CAPT. ROBINSON
TO THE ANSWER OF THE WEST COUNTRY MERCHANTS TO HIS OWN PROPOSALS ABOUT NEWFOUNDLAND.
CAL. STATE PAPERS, AM. & W. I., 1669-1674, p. 147.
368. Reply of Capt. Robinson to the answer of the West Country Gentlemen to his own proposals about Newfoundland (see previous vol. of Cal., 1661-1668, No. 1, 1732). The papers of the West Country Gentlemen given in after so long premeditation on his proposals were not very pertinent to his Majesty's interest, but only a discourse on their own particular trade, nor is it material to insist on Sir David Kirke's Government, how careless or severe soever, for if there be a bad Government it doth not follow that said Governor and planters should be removed, and so the country left to any other nation, but rather that said bad Governor be removed. Still asserts that Sir David Kirke was Governor round great part of the island, and made many of the French pay toll; that Sir Humphrey Gilbert took possession by patent from Queen Elizabeth in 1586 (sic, mistake for 1583; he died in 1584), as Capt. Whitbourne an eye-witness relates in his book of that plantation; and that there is constant destruction of stages, outhouses, and woods, and the harbours spoiled, besides abuses between fishers and planters without any justice between them, and no offices of Christianity or public worship amongst them. But the thing in hand is, whether Newfoundland ought not to be kept from an enemy, and his Majesty's subjects encouraged and secured, being surrounded by the French to the north and south, Placentia Bay to the west with 100 ships before it, and the Bank to the east. That nation are not as they were 50 or 60 years ago, when they durst not encroach on the rights of the Kings of England, nor did mind any trade in navigation, nor delighted in their navy strength, nor had they men to man their few ships. Now 'tis otherwise, for that King is busy to increase his trade and to settle plantations in several parts, and increase his trade and navy at a strange rate, is rich, and values not wronging his neighbours for his own profit, and certainly will use all ways to gain such a nursery for seamen. Knowing that country may be kept at little charge, so it may be kept, if taken, from us, especially if the planters are taken off as some have begged. Some say if St. John's harbour were taken there are fishing places enough beside, as if they could not as well take the smaller and weaker as the greater, Havre-de-Grace to the north, and Friezeland to the south, and so command
the whole country. But the main thing to consider is, if the French should take it, whereas now they employ 400 ships and 18,000 men, and we 300 ships and 15,000 men, they would then employ 700 ships and 30,000 seamen and others, and we be shut out of that nursery and its returns of 700,000l. yearly, for which is not carried out of the kingdom 100l. per annum, which the French would make better worth than 1,400,000l. yearly; and we that have been so flourishing a nation for seamen, have his Majesty at a loss to man his ships of war, whilst the French King shall have at his devotion 30,000 men, which will man 90 ships. Who would believe that any English noble spirit would plead with his Majesty against having a strength in those parts, we having so dearly paid for it by leaving places of concernment without forts, and power to withstand an enemy. Besides if the French gain this to what he possessed already, Canada, Nova Scotia, and other places, he would be an exceeding bad neighbour to New England, New York, and Virginia; and therefore as 500 men more would secure that harbour, country, and trade, he presents it to his Majesty's favour, especially at this juncture, and when their neighbours are lower they may be called off if thought convenient. Endorsed, “Capt. Robinson's reply to the answer of the West Countrymen about Newfoundland, 1670. Recd. in 1676.” 2 large pp. closely written. (Col. Papers, Vol. XXV., No. 110.)