p. 1806

They left no inhabitants behind them, partly for fear of Indians. Signed, Jno. Norris. The whole, 9½ pp. Endorsed, Read 2 Jan., 1698-9.

         900. II.    List of ships, with their ladings, trading to Newfoundland in 1698. Total number of ships, 252 ; tonnage, 24,318 ; crews, 4,244 ; passengers, 935 ; boats, 532 ; fish made, 114,770 quintals ; fish bought, 157,848 quintals ; loaded for return voyage, 365,198 tons ; unfree ships, 18. 18 pp. Endorsed as No. I. (Board of Trade, Newfoundland, 3. Nos. 126, 126 I., II., and (without enclosure II.) 25 pp., 263-276.)




No. 751.                                 C

CAPTAIN FRANCIS WHELER'S REPORT ON NEWFOUNDLAND.



CALENDAR OF STATE PAPERS, AMERICA & W. INDIES, 1681-1685, p. 707.

         1907.    Captain Francis Wheler, R.N., of H.M.S. Tiger, to William Blathwayt. Answers to the queries annexed to the instructions given to the commander of the convoy concerning Newfoundland :—1. A list of inhabitants and their servants is enclosed. These latter change from year to year and covenant with their masters for the fishing season of the year at high rates. The best of the sport is over by the 20th August, but they fish on till November when the ice and snow comes and then they do little but provide fuel against the cold. I have answered at large how they keep the Western Charter. 2. The Colony cannot support itself. The earth, or rather the rock, produces no more than enough to keep a few cattle in summer, which must be slaughtered during the winter for want of forage. The place is provisioned from England, New England, and Ireland. 3. At St. John's they go two miles to fetch their wood owing to the demand for fuel, but elsewhere there is no scarcity. It is the general complaint that the adventurers' stages are pulled down in the winter, and I am sure it is partly true. The inhabitants are so united that the offenders cannot be known. But I find that the fishermen build their stages slight, and five months' bad weather and ice tear the posts down. The inhabitants prevent the whole work from perishing by repairs, but the damage to the stages makes the ships come a month before they need, and this can only be prevented by a magistrate on the spot. 4. Every inhabitant that keeps boats has his own stage, which he 'keeps always ; but in all ports the ships have room enough. I find that in spite of an Order in Council there are several warehouses built close to the sea which take up good room for stages, and would be much better further



p. 1807

back. On the fishing-places there is room for twice the number of ships. 6. All clothing and tackle is brought from England ; salt, liquors, and provisions are from France and New England. 7. There is no sort of arable or pasture land in the Colony, nor any fur trade except towards Cape Bonavista. 8. The New England trade is considerable, chiefly rum and molasses. If Bills of Exchange are taken it is for English goods ; if fish, the fish is taken to Barbados. The rum is pernicious, for it makes planters and fishermen drink out all they are worth in the winter to a shameful degree. Other liquor comes from England wines from Fayal ; but I believe it would be impossible to continue the trade, for ten hours in the boats every day in the summer and the intolerable cold of the winter makes living hard without strong drink. But the worst thing is that the New England men carry away many of the fishermen and seamen, who marry in New England and make it their home. 9. The wages paid to the servants are so high that planters can hardly help getting behindhand. An account enclosed from an intelligent planter explains this. They make something by the liquor, which they sell at a very dear rate, but many of the servants having families in England are not very prodigal. Certainly there is hardly a planter in the country who is not a great worse than nothing, but they are bound to go on fishing or the merchants will sell them no provisions for the winter. 10. The New England men do not fish on this coast though a great deal on their own, and have a fish trade with Portugal. 11. The fish are sold to the sack-ships, and so they go home with their train-oil and men. I have calculated the cost and profits of one of their ships. But the trade being carried on for the most part by men who take up their money at bottomry at 20 per cent. (very usual in the West country) they are obliged to sell dearer. Able merchants would turn the trade to better account. The men called boat-keepers in the list do not fish on the ships' account but are hired by particular men. 12. The list of sack-ships is annexed. 13. All men employed by masters of ships are upon bargain to be paid in England, which keeps them from staying in Newfoundland. Occasionally they stay, but last year there were but 120. 14. My answers as to the Western Charter are annexed. 15. Placentia is the best French fishing-place. They get to work six weeks before us, and take such catches that they are generally gone before the end of July. Their ships are large, some of them six and thirty guns. Their victualling is rather cheaper than ours. No fur trade. 16. The inhabitants are much fewer than our colony. 17. The planters are of no use to fishing except to secure their boats in the winter. 18. The French catch 300 quintals to a boat of four men, while we catch but 100 quintals. The usual price is six livres. The French catch more, victual cheaper, finish earlier, and get the first of the market, so they profit more by the trade than we. 19. The French markets are France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. 20. Their trade generally increases except during war with Spain. 21. The French inhabitants are as negligent about defence as our Colony. They are supplied with salt provisions from France and with rum and molasses from New England. 22. A few English live among the French, but there is no correspondence between their Colony and ours.



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23. No foreigner fishes on the Eastern Coast except on the bank fifty leagues from shore, which the French frequent much. The French have a Governor at Placantia, who is of great use. The French have no convoy to Newfoundland, the ships being strong. At Trepasse English and French fish together without quarrelling. 24. I learn that the French are numerous up the river of Canada, and have two good forts. They do not fish, but trade with the Indians for fur. The French begin to fish about ten leagues to north of Cape Bonavista. Being at utter defiance with the Indians in those parts they do not stay for the winter, and all the summer have their arms by them. They have a large fleet and twenty armed boats on the Coast to guard against the Indian canoes ; any man of whatever nation who pays his proportion of this expense may fish on the coast. They catch 200 quintals to a boat of five men, and here their trade is worse than ours and decaying much. 26. The French have the advantage of us in the fishing trade at Placentia for reasons already given. Our trade decays by its being overstocked with sack-ships, for it is plain by the annexed account that the fishing ships profit greatly. The great plenty of fish that is housed this winter in Newfoundland for want of sack-ships, reminds me that the fish which is taken one year is held as good as any next year. If the adventurers would sacrifice a year's profits they could send their sack-ships in the spring and get the first of the market. Signed, Fra. Wheler. 14 pp. Endorsed. Recd. 27 Oct. 1684. Annexed,

         1907. 1.    Observations of Captain Wheler as to the Western Charter and the articles which are kept or broken in Newfoundland. 1st article is kept ; 2nd is broken every day by seamen throwing ballast into the harbours ; 3rd is broken by the destruction of stages in the winter ; 4th is kept ; 5th is kept. The fishermen now use cask instead of fats to carry home the train oil ; 6th to 9th are kept ; 10th is so absolutely broken that hardly a house does not sell drink. 11th is broken ; if the people do assemble, it is not to hear divine service. 12th is interfered with by an Order in Council of 16th January 1678. Of the additional articles, 1st and 2nd are kept ; the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th are interfered with by Orders in Council ; as to the 7th the practice differs for fishermen and passengers ; the 8th is kept ; the 9th is superseded by Order in Council ; the 10th is broken by the boat-keepers, who take a stage though they have but two men ; as to the 11th, the Vice- and Rear-Admiral take upon them to command, but only to serve their own turn. The poor inhabitants are in misery for want of a Governor. Those that have most servants take what they please from the poor by force, and there is no redress in the absence of a king's ship. I have had a hundred complaints before me, and when I have spoken to the admirals they would not do justice, but answered that they wouldn't trouble themselves ; 14th and 15th I can give no account. 4 pp. Endorsed. Recd. 27 October '84.

[1927lab]


 

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