They left no inhabitants behind them, partly for fear of Indians. Signed,
Jno. Norris. The whole, 9½ pp. Endorsed, Read 2 Jan., 1698-9.
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.
& W. INDIES,
1681-1685, p. 707.
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
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.
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,
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.