The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume IV

Nov 18.
Cadiz Bay.

p. 1801                                  C

No. 750.



         990.    Commodore Norris to Council of Trade and Plantations. I enclose particulars of such information as I could obtain in Newfoundland. I think that if the merchants adventurers have the preferable encouragement before the planters boat-keepers it would make the trade most beneficial for England, they making yearly returns of their labour. For, if the planters and boat-keepers should have encouragement to induce them to reside in Newfoundland, they would have such an advantage of the shipping that in a short time the shipping, instead of making their voyages themselves, would be forced to buy, and instead of a return to England the country, like other Colonies, would be of little use but to itself. But if the yearly Adventurers were encouraged I think that the shipping would increase ; for some of the planters and boat-keepers have told me in discourse that if the shipping should be encouraged before them, they must endeavour to be masters of ships themselves, and you know best which is most advantageous for England. I had some doubts as to sending you a letter herein copied, on account of its compliments to myself, but I do so on account of its giving a relation of a part of Newfoundland seeming very advantageous for England. Signed, Jno. Norris. 1 p. Endorsed, Recd. 2 Jan. Read 6 Feb., 1698-9. Enclosed.

         990.  I.    Answer to the Council of Trade's heads of enquiry as to Newfoundland. (2). The Colony cannot subsist itself, for it produces nothing. New England supplies it with rum, molasses, some provisions and tobacco ; great quantities of liquor have lately been imported from Spain and Portugal and this year also from France ; all of which liquor has been very prejudicial to the Adventurers by debauching their men, so that they could not make the voyages which they would have made owing to the drunkenness of their people. To prevent this and for the general good of trade all ships making voyages to Newfoundland should be obliged to clear from England, and not bring more liquor than should be thought fit to allow for each ship. Of late several ships have come from Spain and Portugal to make voyages, and pretend all to have English owners, but as they make foreign ports their place of clearance at every voyage by paying off their men there and laying out all the expenses of their voyage there, it deprives the Western ports of England of the

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benefit of that outlay and prevents the seamen from returning to England. Therefore it would be most for the good of England that all ships trading to Newfoundland should be obliged to make their outset from England each voyage. (3). The inhabitants are destructive to the Adventurers by pulling down the stages in winter and staving the boats, so that the shipping cannot be so forward in the fishing as they. (4). The boat-keepers remain in the country to keep possession of the most convenient room, and are destructive. By keeping their constant stages they encroach (sic) most of the room near the water-side, so that the Adventurers are forced to work behind them, which puts them to the expense of one man in five, or at least to hire stage and room from them. This could be prevented by an order that all boat-keepers should be obliged to return yearly or not fish next year, and this would put them on an equal footing with the Adventurers who cannot possess a stage or room except yearly as they arrive. (6). The boat-keepers are wholly supplied with their craft and clothes from England, and most of the provisions are brought from England and Ireland. (7). The country affords no subsistence to the planters but a few fowl in winter, and at Bonavista they have a small gain in furs. (8). This is answered in No. 2. (9). See the annexed list. The inhabitants sell at the same price as the Adventurers. (10). The people of New England never exercise the fishing-trade, but generally sell their cargo for money and bills, which makes 25 per cent. to them in New England ; but if they cannot get them they buy refuge (? refuse) fish and go to the West Indies. (11). Adventurers, while in the country, victual mostly in fish, and at sea give about the same manner of allowance as in other voyages. The men's wages are generally regulated by the shares, which is one-third of the fish and train divided among them. (12). See the annexed list. (13). Those that come passengers to fish generally pay about £3 for their passage out, and a third or a half less for the passage home. (14). The rules of the Western Charter have in some measure been broke into on all sides. It would be a benefit to the Adventurers if they were revived, to prevent any people pretending an inheritance to the stages and room.

Here follows, Copy of a letter from William Cock to Commodore Norris. Bonavista, 1 September, 1698. I am heartily glad that so wise, knowing and judicious a person as yourself has been entrusted with the Government of this country, and I wish you all success. Kindly inform me whether the bread which you spared me last year has been paid for or not, for you may command payment from me. Lieutenant Leigh, who bears this, has been for some time settling the affairs of this harbour which were in confusion, but by his prudent management all is adjusted to general satisfaction. On the north side of this bay are many extraordinary harbours and better fishing. One William Wyng has fished for some years fourteen leagues N.W. by N. of this place, and has still exceeded the inhabitants of this considerably. This year one Nevill has been that way and has more fish for his two-men-boats than

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those here for shallops, so that next summer several inhabitants of this harbour design to remove thither, as also the masters of ships that have fished here this year, for it is certain that the fewer the boats that are kept in a place the better is the fishing. I tell you this that the power of those whom you send this way to settle affairs may extend as far as Cape Frills, that being the northernmost cape of this bay. If a draught of that place were drawn it would greatly encourage shipping to fish this way, there being many secure harbours and roads, and room for 500 sail. Letter ends.
        My emissary to Placentia arrived there on 4 September. Walking round the fort he counted thirty-six guns, chiefly eighteen pounders, all facing the harbour's mouth, where he saw also a chain and boom. The inward part of the fort has no guns, being protected on the land side by a fort on the hill, in which he saw eight guns facing to the sea ; but one of their soldiers seeing him brought him back to the lower fort and he was not permitted to go to it afterwards. At Bluff Head on coming in are mounted eight guns in two tiers. On the 6th he saw the soldiers mustered and exercised in the fort and counted them to be about eighty, which some of the inhabitants told them was their number. There was a French man-of-war of about fifty guns and about thirty sail of merchantmen ; the inhabitants said that about twenty more had gone to market, the catch being 300 quintals or upwards to a boat, which is about what our ports have made this year. The man-of-war was bound to the Fogo, which is to the northward of our plantation, to sail with their ships ; and the French report that there were as many ships fishing to the northward as at Placentia. These ships generally sail from St. Malo. The French had fourteen sail that fished at St. Peter's Island, three at little Placentia, two at Collonet, five at St. Mary's, and four at Trepassy. They sold their fish at Placentia for twenty-four raills per quintal. The ships make their voyages with boats and people as we do, which people generally return with the shipping. There are about twenty-nine families of planters at Placentia, and about 160 people remained there in the winter ; at little Placentia are twelve families, and (according to the information of one who had lived in Placentia) there were with the soldiers about 300 people in the winter. This year every ship was obliged by the King of France to bring one hogshead of lime for every boat they were to keep, for the building of works at Placentia. He saw about 200 hogsheads of lime by the fort of Placentia. The French do not cultivate their land ; their trade, like ours, being wholly fishing.
       Thomas Barrington, master of a Boston ship, was stranded close to one point of Placentia bay, and getting off anchored afterwards in the bay in August. He saw thirty sail of merchantmen and heard of twenty more already sailed. The rest were expected to be ready to sail at the end of September. They gave over fishing on the 3rd of August. He was told that in Placentia Fort were thirty guns, and in the fort on the hill eight guns, but was not allowed to go to them. There is another fort on the hill which, he thinks, had no guns. On the point on the larboard side are eight guns. There were two mortars in the fort and a bomb-vessel riding in the harbour. He believes

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there are about 150 soldiers and 200 inhabitants that remain in the winter. They make their voyages as we do, and some pay by the share and some by the voyage. Dated, 12 September, 1698.
        Petition of the masters in Newfoundland to Commodore Norris. We daily see great abuses and encroachments of inhabitants and boat-keepers on ships' fishing room, especially in this harbour. We beg you to give the necessary instructions to the inhabitants, and to make such a representation to the Council of Trade that the Adventurers may enjoy free liberty of fishing in this country without interruption. (1). The small boat-keepers of our parts fitting out for Newfoundland have the advantage of the Adventurers by taking the choice of the ablest fishermen and shoremen, and before they have made up their complement of men it is very difficult to engage an able fisherman or shoreman, the reason being that they live somewhat easier with them, not being obliged to do any ship-work, but only to do the labours of the voyage, and so rest in time when it is not weather to work about the fishery. Frequently when we have brought a landman with us a voyage or two, we find that they engage themselves with the bye-boat-keepers, whereby they seldom or never become sailors, neither we nor our officers having any command over them on the passage. (2). These bye-boat-keepers in England generally choose the best sailing-ships so as to gain their passage sooner, and if they reach the country early they place themselves in the best and most convenient places by the water-side, whereby later ships are often obliged to hire both stage and room from them and to carry their fish so far backward that we are forced to allow a man more to every boat than they, besides the inconvenience in making our fish, the disadvantage to our owners and the discouragement to our crews. (3). These boat-keepers are so numerous “that when as we would go on for the keeping a considerable quantity of boats in order for the catching our ship's lading, we often pass with a great deal less number of men, by which means instead of catching our lading we are obliged to make use of our owners' credit to buy our lading from the boat-keepers, otherwise must go dead freighted.” (4). This present year many of the boat-keepers have resolved to stay in the country, and if this be tolerated we must expect the best places for stage-room in this harbour to be possessed by them, so that we cannot expect to find convenient room for our ships another year. Commonly when they leave the country they make sale, as they call it, of their plantations, and so pass them from one to another as their own land. So likewise the likeliest young men for the King's service, when there is most occasion for them, absent themselves in the woods till the men-of war are sailed and so remain in the country or go to New England, where they bestow themselves most out of the way for serving their country. This is chiefly occasioned by their masters, the boat-keepers, to save the charge of their passage home, though the cost is never above half or two-thirds of a. passage outwards. (5). The people who stay in the country for the winter always take care to build their stages and houses much larger than is really necessary for the crews they keep, and so make their advantage on the later

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comers by exacting in the highest degree. We have known from £5 to £15 given this year for a boat's room in this harbour, which we believe to be no other than selling the King's land, to the great abuse of the Merchants-Adventurers. (6). “Some here are passing by the name of Planters now in possession of room as they would have called Patent-room, although contrary to our ancient charter, which room although cannot occupy themselves yet yearly make encroachments further which they set out to hire, making great benefit thereby to the cost of our employers in England, for prevention of which no liver ought to build a stage on any ship's room but ships' crews only.” (7). Traders from New England are constantly bringing great quantities of liquor from thence and from the Caribbee Islands, whereby our men are debauched and are encouraged to steal and embezzle from their masters much of our fishing craft and other necessaries, to our great loss and hindrance. By such means, too, men extravagantly spend great part of the money which should support their families in England. (8). We beg that for the future all unfree ships may be debarred from trading in Newfoundland, for in justice to our nation, traders to these parts should not only be free ships but such as are like to clear and fit out yearly from England, which will much promote our fishery. King, merchant and tradesman will then wholly reap the benefit of our labours and not foreigners and unfree ships, as we now yearly see. At least one-fourth of the ships here come from Spain and Portugal, supplying the land with all manner of necessaries, selling them cheaper than our owners can afford and returning with their cargoes of fish, and glutting the market abroad. Their merchants living on the spot can generally undersell our Merchants-Adventurers, whereby our owners are much discouraged. To prevent this, no ship whatever ought to make a second voyage to Newfoundland without returning to England to clear. Signed by fifteen masters.
       A Relation taken by Captain Norris from people who had fished to the Northward. Thomas Weymouth, who was taken prisoner by the French in 1693, deposed to being carried to a port called Grand Callery, when the French told him that in time of peace they had from eighty to one hundred sail that made fishing voyages between Charles Straits and Cape Frills. They carry boats and people with them and leave no inhabitants behind at the end of the season. In this bay there are thirty-two places where they fish and ride their ships, all open to the sea except Flower de Luce, which has a narrow entrance and a very fine harbour with room for two or three hundred sail. The ships never try to be there before the 1st of June, as the ice lasts longer there than elsewhere, and leave on the 1st of September. Their fishing is very plenty and lies nearer to the shore than in many of our ports.
       Thomas Mitchell, master, was taken by the French and carried into White Island, about sixteen leagues north of Cape Frills, in 1697. There were no more ships in that place, but there were accounts of thirty or forty sail making fish in the several ports. The Frenchmen arrived on 27 June, and left about 10 September, with a cargo of 3,000 quintals. The French said that in time of peace they used to fish about sixty sail annually in those ports.



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