The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume IV

Sept. 15
St. John's,

p. 1788                                         C

No. 741.



CAL. STATE PAPERS, AM. & W. I., 1677-1680, p. 417.

        1121.  Charles Talbot to Sir Robert Southwell. We came so late to Newfoundland that the season for boats to adventure to the northward was past, neither could we get any. What I could learn in answer to the enquiries I have enclosed.   Annexed.


        1121.   1.  Answers to enquiries respecting Newfoundland. (1). The colony consiste of about 1,700 men, women, children, and servants. Trade in summer fishing ; in winter sawing of boards, building boats and making oars for the Adventurers. After the ships are gone they generally fish till All Hallowtide. There is furring to the north, but little to the southward. They observe the rules of their charter more than the Adventurers, for they preserve their stages, while the Adventurers people destroy theirs for firewood for the homeward voyage.   (2). The inhabitants are not able to subsist, and the less for want of a government to protect them in their labours. From England they get their bread, clothing, malt, flesh and pease, from Ireland both provisions and clothing, from New England tobacco, sugar, molasses, rum, flesh, bread, and flour. What relates to the fishery comes solely from England in English ships.   (3). They make no use of the wood except for purposes of the fishery, and building &c.; they do their best to secure the Adventurers' concerns which are left with them, but it is a common practice for the Adventurers to rifle the stages and rooms and boats to fit themselves, so I am informed, and the fact is not denied by some of the masters.   (4). Few of the Colony keep above three boats, and none of them take up more room than is convenient; far from being prejudicial the trade could not be so well managed without them.   (5). The boat-keepers left behind must be esteemed part of the Colony, but there are many that pay their passages out and home, and fish the season. These cannot be prejudicial to the Adventurers' concerns, though when the stages are ruined by the ships' companies I suppose the colonists make bold with the rest for firewood.   (6). The Colony and bye-boats are supplied with brandy, wine, salt, &c., from

p. 1789


France, Spain and Portugal, but only in English ships.   (7). The country is mostly barren and cumbered with wood. Winters are so severe and long as not to afford winter corn. In summer they might do somewhat, but servants' wages are so excessive that clearing ground and sowing corn would not be profitable. It is a Colony not of husbandmen but fishermen.   (8). New England trades with Newfoundland for fish. It is false that the fishermen are debauched by the Colony and forced to hire themselves for satisfaction of their debts; but as some of the servants return yearly to England when the summer voyage is over, they hire others in their places, thereby gaining their passages the year ensuing.   (9). It is supposed that the Colony own a fourth part of the fishing boats and generally make better voyages, but their expenses being greater they cannot afford to sell cheaper. (10). Those of New England fish little on this coast, but their own fisheries increase, for they steal fishermen every year from Newfoundland.   (11 and 12). Referred to Captain Wright's report.   (13). The masters are glad to have the provisions of such men as are willing to stay with the Colony.   (14). The Adventurers' people break up their stages, and were beginning at St. John's when we were there, until forbidden. In short, they offer so many abuses to the Colony that some have removed to the French and more threaten to do so.

      As to the French,—
      They manage the trade as we do by a colony and fishing ships. Placentia is fortified, garrison of twenty men; ten families of England and French and more at other ports in the south; at least 40 ships fish on that side, come sooner, and go for the Straits a month before us. Northward at least 150 ships fish, according to Christopher Martin. They sail for St. Maio and thereabout. No information as to Colony or fortifications. They have a great trade for beaver in Canada and Nova Scotia. As to the present state of the fishery at large:—The trade is prejudiced for want of government. The fishermen are negligent and insolent. If the masters are severe the men desert to New England. The stages are generally destroyed; a great waste of wood and abuse to the Colony.   (2). The island is a possession of the British Crown. The Colony preserve it, having been settled by patent as a colony of fishermen with liberty to build stages, houses, or forts if they would, but not to make plantations within six miles of the fishery places so as to preserve the woods necessary for the fishery.   (3). If the Colony be not allowed to follow the fishing trade, the King's Customs will suffer, and many of his subjects be lost by removal to the French, to which several have been driven already.   (4). In case of war with France one ten-gun frigate might burn all the boats and destroy the Colony. St. John's and a few other harbours may be made impregnable.   (5). The way to secure Newfoundland is to settle a Governor and Government, fortify

p. 1790

some of the choice harbours, and maintain good garrisons which may be done at little cost to the King.   (6). The Colony has declared its willingness to contribute, but the Adventurers and sack ships should contribute also, as they will profit, say, one penny per quintal or two quintals per boat, and the sack ships to find ammunition as in New England.   (7). The sum thus raised will pay for fortifications and garrisons. 3pp. Endorsed. Recd. 13 Feb. Read 21 and 26 Feb. 1679-80.   (Col. Papers, Vol. XLIII., No. 121, 121 1.)



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