The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume IV

[20 Aug.,

Aug, 20.
St. John's
in Newfound-

p. 1811                                  C

No. 755.




         756.    George Larkin. to the Council of Trade and Plantations. I am now about to leave this place, where I arrived the 24th of the last month, having delivered to the Commander in Chief the duplicate of the Commission, copies of the Act of Parliament and Proclamation. As to the Rules and Forms of Proceedings, which I have settled here with the Commissioners, I crave leave to refer your Lordships to the papers, which comes herewith enclosed, a copy of which I have left with the Commission for the succeeding Commandore, which by directions of the Lords of the Admiralty is to be deposited in the hands of the Commanding Officer of the Fort. Captain Graydon bath appointed one Mr. Henry Newman, a merchant here, to be Register, to whom I have given such Instructions as are necessary, and have layd downe everything so plaine, that if any pirates shall happen to be seized, I think there cannot well be any error in the proceedings. I have not heard of any that have been upon the coasts of Newfoundland this yeare. I find that the Rules and Orders conteyned in the Act for the more advantagious management of the Fishery are not so much regarded as I could wish they were. The reason I attribute to the want of a penalty ; the trees are rinded, and the woods destroyed as much now as they were before the making of the Act, and in few years, unless prevented, there will not be a stick fit for the use of the Fishery within five or six miles of this and some other harbours where I have been, and the Flakes which are to be left standing, are most of them made use of by the inhabitants for firing in the winter. The present Admiral of this harbour, Capt. Arthur Holdsworth, Commander of the Nicholas of Dartmouth, brought over from England this fishing season 236 passengers all or great part of which are By-boat keepers, and under a pretence of being freighters aboard his ship, which is only for some few provisions for their necessary use, he hath put and continued them in the most convenient stages etc. in this harbour, which all along since the yeare '85 have belonged to fishing-ships, insomuch that several Masters of fishing-ships have been obliged to hire room of the Planters. These By-boat keepers are most of them able fishermen, and I don't heare that there is any Freshmen or Greenmen amongst them as the Act directs. I am credibly informed that this very person, and

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one or two more that constantly use the Newfoundland trade, in the beginning of the year make it their business to ride from one Market Town to another in the West of England on purpose to get passengers, and make an agreement with them that in case they shall happen to be Admirals of any of the harbours (that) they will put and continue them in fishing-ships roome. This is a very great abuse and discouragement to the Adventurers. Besides, these By-boat keepers can afford to sell their fish cheaper than the Adventurers, which must lessen the number of fishing ships.
        The great complaint is against the New England men and some merchants of that country, that for these seven or eight years last past have resorted to this place during the fishing season, that they have their Agents in most harbours in the land, by means whereof they know what is brought to every place, and so drive an indirect Trade, and supply the Plantations with several commodities, which they ought to have directly from England ; that their vessels generally make two or three trips in a year with bread, flower, porke, tobacco, molasses, sugar, lime-juice and rum ; that they sell their provisions some small matter cheaper to the inhabitants, but then they oblige them to take a quantity of rum. This rum the inhabitants sell to the fishermen, which encourages them to stay behind and leave their families in England, which oftentimes become burthensome to their respective parishes ; that the inhabitants sell rum also to their servants, who run in debt, and are forced to hire themselves for payment thereof ; one month's profuse living and a pair of shoes leaves them in bondage for a whole year, and though as good fishermen as any in the land and may deserve 151. or 201. per annum, they make them serve for seven ; that the New England men never carry their fish, which they receive in exchange from the inhabitants and planters for their cargo to market, but either sell the same upon bill in England, by which they gain five or six and thirty pounds per cent., or else for wine, brandy, dowlas and other sorts of linen cloth, silks, alamode and lustring, sarcenets and paper from France ; that in the close of the year they inveigle and draw away a great many seamen, fishermen, and servants with promises of great wages, and when they come there, not meeting with that encouragement they expected, several of them betake themselves to a dissolute sort of life, and in the end turne Rogues and Pyrates. I am told that the New England vessels last year carryed out of Conception Bay upwards of 500 men, some of which were headed up in casks, because they should not be discovered. Of what consequence this is to England, your Lordships are the most proper judges. But if your Lordships think fitt, the same may be for the future prevented by the Master of every New England vessel's giving bond of such penalty as shall be thought meet at the Custom House where he is cleared, that he shall not carry any seamen, fishermen, or servant as passenger or otherwise (except his ship's company) from Newfoundland to New England, or any of the King's Plantations, without leave in writing first had from the Commander in Chief of the Newfoundland Convoy ; And that there is scarce a vessel that comes from New England to Newfoundland, whose bills of lading and stores mention above one halfe of the cargo that they have aboard, or returnes again to

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New England but what is seizable. I don't hear but of one New England vessel that fisheth upon this coast this yeare, and that is one Captain Pitt at Ferryland.
        The inhabitants and Planters of Newfoundland are a poor, indigent, and withall a profuse sort of people that care not at what rates they get into debt, nor what obligations they give, so that they can but have credit, but the seizing of their fish for debts seems to me to be both irregular and unjust as to the time and manner of doing it, and the fishermen seeing the rocks stript before the fishing season is half over are discouraged from proceeding any further, which often proves the ruin and overthrow of severall of the Planters' voyages. Debts were never wont to be paid in Newfoundland till the 20th of August, but for these two or three yeares past the Rocks have been stript by night, and the fish carryed off in June and July, without weighing, a second hath come and taken it from the first, and perhaps the Planter hath had twenty or thirty quintalls of fish spoyled in the scuffle, and the rest of his creditors are forced to go without any satisfaction ; nay, the poor Fishermen who helped to take the fish have not one penny wages : salt provisions and craft are all payable here before wages, and considering how poor fishermen are used, I admire how the Planters and Inhabitants procure hands from England to fish for them. Indeed, when complaints of this nature have been made to the Commander-in-Chief, he has ordered the fish to be redelivered and dividend to be made, but my Lords, here is in Newfoundland at least 5 or 6 and 20 several harbours, besides coves, and it's a great way for people to come from Bonavista and Firmooze to St. John's to make their complaints. The Admirals they'l not concern themselves, but leave all to the Commandore. They ought to see to the preservation of peace and good government among the seamen and fishermen, that the orders for the regulation of the fishery be put in execution ; and to keep journals, but instead of this, they are the first that break the orders, and there is not one of them where I have been that hath kept any Journal. The late Act gives the Planters a title, and it's pity but that they had some Laws and Rules by which they should be govern'd, tho' it's the opinion of all that I have conversed with since I came here, that it had been much better if all Plantations in Newfoundland had been absolutely discouraged, for it's now become a sanctuary or place of refuge for people that break in England, and the Masters of the fishing ships do encourage several of their men to stay behind, persuading them that they will soon get estates here, purely to serve the charges of their passage back to England.
        It hath been customary for the Commander in Chief upon complaints to send his Lieutenant to several harbours and coves, to decide all differences betwixt Commanders of merchant ships and the Inhabitants and Planters, and betwixt them and their servants. Its truely an absolute shame to hear how matters have been transacted upon such occasions. He that makes a present of the most Quintalls, is sure to have the matter determined in his favour. The whole Country exclaims against the Lieutenants in Capt. Poulton and Fairborne's time, and do not stick to say that some former Commanders in Chief have been a little faulty. The present Commander

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hath taken a great deal of pains to do the country justice, and to settle Religion amongst them, and everybody seems to be very well satisfied with him. There has never been any account or registry kept of any of the orders or rules that have been made for the good of the fishery ; what one Commander in Chief hath confirmed, the next hath vacated. I have prevailed with this to leave an abstract of all such as have been made during his time with the Commission for tryall of Pirates for his successor. Several quarrels and differences happen here after the fishing season is over, and in the rigor of the winter Masters beat servants, and servants their Masters. I would therefore propose that one of the most substantiall inhabitants in every harbour be appointed in the nature of a Justice for preservation of peace and tranquility, and that some person that understands the Laws be sent with the Commander in Chief, or to reside here, in the nature of a Judge-Advocate, to decide all differences and matters of meum and tuum betwixt Masters of ships, Inhabitants, Planters and Servants ; that he have a power to administer an oath to parties or witnesses for determination thereof in the most summary way, and that he be obliged to go every year to Bonavista, Trinity, New Perlican, Old Perlican, Carboneer, St. Johns, Bay of Bulls and Ferryland, and to stay a fortnight or three weeks each of them. He may be usefull here upon several occasions. Besides your Lordships will not fail of a true account, how all matters are transacted in Newfoundland.
        I meet with very few here that can give any account of the French, only that they have fiefty sail of ships, all Adventurers, at PIacentia this season ; that provisions of all sorts are cheaper there ; that their boats have made much the same voyages that ours have here, viz., from two to four hundred quintalls for a boat ; that there is but one ship of war, which brought stores, and that they are very busy in fortifying the Fort at Placentia. We have had very stormy weather upon this coast. Three ships have been cast away in Petty harbour, a Ketch and another vessel in Tuds Cove. Signed, Geo. Larkin. Endorsed, Recd. 15th, Read Oct. 16, 1701. 4 closely written pp. En- 30 closed,

    756.    i. Abstract of preceding. 1¼ pp.
    756.    ii. Rules and Forms of proceedings, to be observed in the Admiralty Courts for the trial of pirates at Newfoundland, drawn up by Geo. Larkin and the Commissioners on board H.M.S. Assistance in the Harbour of St. Johns, Aug. 11, 1701. Endorsed, Recd. Oct. 15, 1701. 61 pp. (C. 0. 194, 2. Nos. 44, 44. i., ii. ; and (without abstract) 195, 2. pp. 447-466.)



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