p. 1916

and Ireland ; there is no longer the Competition and Interloping Trade of the New Englanders so much complained of heretofore by the Merchants. I cannot help thinking also, that since Newfoundland is so severed from New England, some of the Topics respecting the Population of the Island, and the Fears about Colonization, deserve less Regard. Notwithstanding the Increase of Inhabitants, Newfoundland is still nothing but a great Ship, dependent upon the Mother Country for every Thing they eat, drink, and wear, or for the Funds to procure them ; the Number of Inhabitants seems to me rather to increase this Dependence, inasmuch as their Necessities are thereby increased. They all look to the Sea alone for Support ; Nine tenths of the People procure from the Soil nothing but Potatoes ; and those who carry Cultivation furthest reap no Produce but what can be furnished by a Garden. In some few Places Hay is cut, but Corn is never thought of ; neither the Soil, or the Climate having encouraged the few Attempts that have been made to grow it. The Population, though said to be great, is scattered as thinly as the Products of the Earth. Distant Harbours and Coves, not easily accessible but by Sea, are the Places chosen for Residence, the People of which have little Knowledge, or Connection with one another, to unite them.
        The Island is little-known and the Accounts given of the Population are not to be depended on ; it is stated from Twenty to Fifty thousand Persons, who have no other Home. Be it as large as the highest of these Statements, l do not myself think it an Object to be apprehended. If any think the Collection of People in the Island has Mischievous Tendency, I hope the above Considerations may contribute to ease them a little on this Head. At. any Rate, it is a Matter where we are to hope rather for Consolation than Cure ; for I do not see how such a Population is to be rooted out, or indeed thinned, so as to make any considerable Diminution. There have been Projects, on former Occasions, when the Island was thought to be overrun with Inhabitants, for sending People to Nova Scotia, and other Places, where Inhabitants were wanted, but I do not remember that these were ever carried into effect.
        I cannot help saying, that the grand Means employed to prevent the Increase of Inhabitants has, in my Opinion, contributed to their Increase. It has all along been the Inclination to say, that there should be no Resident Government, because, if there was, Newfoundland would become a Colony. None have been more strenuous than the Western Merchants in keeping up the Cry against a Governor ; they have constantly alledged the above Reason, and that Reason has always passed for a good one.
         I take the Liberty of doubting whether this Reason was a good one. I never can be brought to think, but that placing a Governor there, whose Business it should be to prevent People settling, would have been a more probable Method of preventing it than continuing the present floating Government, which has no regular Authority to send Persons Home, and which departs from the Island just at the Time when the Seamen and Fishermen are hesitating whether they shall stay the Winter or not, and might be easily turned in their Resolution by the Apprehension of any Interposition

p. 1917

from Authority. The Consequence has been, that Newfoundland has been peopled behind your Back ; you have abandoned it to be inhabited by any one who chooses, because you thought appointing a Governor would constitute a Colony and encourage Population. The Western Merchants, who found out the Reason that “a Governor would make a Colony,” knew perfectly well what they were about in urging it ; they knew that the Presence of a Governor would interfere with their Plan, which was to go on without Inspection or Controul ; they over reached those who heard them, and succeeded in the only Object they proposed to themselves : For in the mean time they, among the rest, proceeded to make all the Advantage they could, by adding to the Number of Residents every Year.
        However it may have originated, the Population of the Island is such, as now to need the Controul and the Protection of Magistracy and Officers, like the rest of the King's Dominions. That Magistracy should be raised and strengthened, instead of being exposed to be disregarded and contemned, as has been attempted by some late Proceedings ; and in my Opinion, it will never be placed in a Situation to discharge its Functions properly, till there is something more of a resident Government.
        The present floating Government seems to me so constituted, as to confer the least possible Advantage of a Government. The Governor's Appointment continues for Three Years, the Term of his Station ; the Captains of the Squadron, who are his Surrogates, are often changed during the Station. It happens, therefore, that the Governor has One Year to see and learn, another to execute his Authority with some Knowledge, and a Third Year with some little more.
        If the Governor, who is changed every Three Years, has little Time to learn the Peculiarities of the Trade and Fishery, what is to be said of the Captains of Ships, who are often changed before the Station is out? And if you add to this that they all come to the Business of hearing Causes for the first Time in their Lives (unless by some Chance a Captain has been on the Station before) it seems altogether the most singularly contrived System, and most unsatisfactory to everybody concerned in it. It is therefore not to be wondered, that the Governors who succeeded Admiral Edwards, finding they could not determine Causes so easily as he says he did, and less liking than himself to pay a Sum of Money to compromise any Action that might possibly be brought against them for what they did, ceased to hold Courts, and endeavoured to enforce an Observance of the Law, more by their advice than their Authority. I think their Country owes them great Obligations for undergoing the Trouble and Anxiety so long as they did ; and I think the same Thanks are due to the Surrogates, who have to the present Moment, continued to perform the same unpleasant Task in their several Stations. The stepping thus out of their professional Line, can never be submitted to from any other Consideration, than an implicit Obedience to all Commands imposed on them by their superior Officer. I was extremely glad, the last Season, to lend my Assistance in taking off some of this Load from the Surrogates. This I did in Part, during my Visit to Trinity Harbour and Harbour

p. 1918

Grace ; and I after did the Whole of the Surrogate's Business at Ferryland, which, however, broke in too much on the Time I ought to have spent at St. John's.
        It is to be wished, that the Captains of Ships should still continue to lend their Assistance as Surrogates in the Out Harbours. The Communication from Harbour to Harbour is only by Sea ; and the Force of a Ship of War, may sometimes be wanted to enforce Obedience to Justice. In the Out Ports, too, the Questions are of a more simple Nature, usually about Wages or Charges in an Account, either between Master and Servant, or Merchant and Boat-keeper, to which Gentlemen of the Navy may easily give their Attention ; but at St. John's there are many Questions which arise upon complicated mercantile Dealings, which have led to a Length of Enquiry that would not be very agreeable to the Governor, or any of his Surrogates. Indeed all this was experienced before the Governors gave up the vexatious Employment of hearing Causes, and it has very much increased of late Years, since the Town of St. John's has increased in Population, and there has grown to be so much Trade and Traffic, which give Rise to mercantile Questions of various Sorts.
        In Truth, the Surrogates are not able to get through the Business they are employed upon, without the Assistance of the Justices who reside on the Spot. I am sure I should not have been able to proceed without the continued Assistance of Gentlemen acquainted with the Place ; during the first Year I was principally assisted by Mr. Graham, who had been Secretary to the Governors for several Years, and by Mr. Coke the Comptroller ; these Two Gentlemen were Assessors in the Court of Civil Jurisdiction. The last Year Mr. Graham was no longer in Office, and the Court had no Assessors, so that I had nothing to depend on, but the voluntary Assistance of Mr. Coke, which he gave me very readily. So long as the present Triennial Government continues, there must be some Person or Persons kept in Office, who from long Habit and Experience may be able to keep alive the Knowledge that is necessary for, conducting Affairs with Propriety. There should be a permanent Governor a permanent Lieutenant Governor, or a permanent Chief Justice ; whether any such Person should reside there, or go and return as at present, is a Question of a different Sort.
*               *               *               *
        Mr. REEVES being asked, How many Days was he at Newfoudland? he said. in 1791 we arrived the 10th of September, and departed the 1st of November. In 1792 we arrived the 3rd of September, and departed the 30th of October.

*               *               *               *



Partnered Projects Government and Politics - Table of Contents Site Map Search Heritage Web Site Home