p. 1785                                          C



No. 739.

CONSIDERATION OF NEWFOUNDLAND AFFAIRS BY
LORDS OF TRADE.



CAL. STATE PAPERS, AM. & W. I., 1677-1680, pp. 76-8

        215.  Journal of Lords of Trade and Plantations. Letter read from Sir Jonathan Atkins of 6/16 Dec. (see preceding Volume, No. 1174). It is agreed to report to His Majesty as follows (see ante, No. 210), it not appearing that His Majesty had ever sent any stores to Barbadoes for which payment was not to be made there. Also was read another letter from Governor Atkins of 8/18 February (see ante, No. 48).
        In pursuance of the King's order (see ante, No. 97) their Lordships met to find out what is proper to be done for security of the fishery of Newfoundland, and settlement of that plantation, both parties concerned called in; their Lordships' report of 15th April 1675 (see previous volume of Calendar, No. 524) and Sir John Berry's letter to Sir Robert Southwell having first been read, Counsel on behalf of the Adventurers argues that the manner of catching fish by ships is very ancient and the plantation settled of late years, since which the fishery is very much decayed by reasons of abuses committed by the planters. That they debauch the seamen, destroy the stages, and are of no security or strength against any enemy in time of war, and that in time of peace His Majesty's sovereignty is sufficiently provided for by the yearly sending out of ships, by which possession is actually maintained for half the year. That the French have so large a tract of land, and so great conveniency of harbours to exercise their fishery, as that they will not easily be provoked to encroach upon us or disturb our fishery. Mr. Perrot being sworn alleges several instances of injuries he supposes to have been done by the inhabitants to the Adventurers. Benjamin Scutt assures their Lorships the fishing ships are forced to leave England six weeks sooner by reason of damages done by the planters, that of late years the fishery is decreased one half upon the encouragement the inhabitants have received out of England. That upon renewal of the Western Charter two years ago, whereby no person was to inhabit within six miles of the shore, the trade again revived, and last year 7,500 men went out on fishing ships besides those on the sack ships. Mr. Pollexfen also sworn to the same effect. Counsel on behalf of the Planters deny what is alleged against them and offer to give security not to destroy the stages of the fishermen or do them any injury and conceive in case the Plantation ceases, His Majesty can by no means secure his right to the country.

p. 1786

Besides that the planters are already settled there by virtue of former patents, whereby the soil is granted to them. John Downing, as agent for the planters, assures their Lorships he has frequented the island above thirty years, that there is a colony of one hundred and fifty families amounting to sixteen or seventeen thousand souls (sic). That the fishermen belonging to the ships at their departure pull down their stages for firing on board, and ruin the flakes to brew drink. That the planters are very useful to them in keeping their stores, and he had one year six hundred hogsheads of salt in his custody for the fishermen. And by Sir John Berry's order, undertook to preserve their stages preferring the admiral to make good all damages. That it is impossible for the planters to inhabit six miles from the shore, all their houses are near the water and none farther off than a quarter of a mile. He affirms the French have at least 250 families of about 2,000 men and 400 soldiers, that the King of France daily encourages the plantation, so it is much increased since 1670, and the French have at length exempted themselves from the impost of five fish for one hundred and twenty which they paid to the proprietors in Sir David Kirke's time, and during the late usurpation unto the men of war that were sent thither. That the French forts are not maintained for the security of the beaver trade against the Indians, there being none that live, or ever come near the French plantations. That we ought to be more apprehensive of the growth of the French colony as so near to ours, from Placentia Bay to Trinity harbour but three miles. Mr. Downing's account of how the inhabitants employ themselves after the fishing ships are gone away and during the winter season. Captain Davis who had been many years in Newfoundland says if the inhabitants be obliged to desert the island, the French will immediately possess themselves of it and destroy our fishery. Several points may be made defensible, as St. John's Harbour, which is of so great a strength as De Ruyter confessed if there had been six guns mounted he could have done the ships no injury. That the abuses against the charter are practiced by the ships' companies who cut down their stages. All persons being withdrawn their Lordships agree to report to His Majesty according to these several informations, with their opinions that no alteration be made this year in relation to the Colony or the fishery. And Meanwhile that three Commissioners be sent over with the convoys to enquire into the French trade and plantation, and the present complaints.
        Instructions to be given to said Commissioners considered and all means to be used to get information from France as to their trade and plantation. Report made to His Majesty in Council which is ordered to be referred back to hear the Western men and planters and consider of fit regulations to prevent the adventurers receiving any prejudice from the planters. (Col. Entry Bk., Vol. CV., pp. 31-38.)

[1927lab]


 

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