p. 1940 C
EXTRACT FROM “HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE BRITISH COLONIES.”
“NEWFOUNDLAND.” BY J. D. RODGERS, VOL. V, pp. 155-157.
In October 1816 the Governor became “resident” Governor, and being “resident” his salary was raised ; and as a sign that he was now a land-mammal he was allowed a horse. In consequence of the change in his position he began to reside in the island both winter and summer, but postponed his first winter sojourn until 1817-18. In the winter of 1816-17 crime and incendiarism were rife. Captain Buchan, R.N., of H.M.S. Pike, who was present, alleviated some of the distress and controlled some of the disorder. The winter of 1817-18 was still colder than that of 1816-17, and was nick-named “the winter of the Rals” or rowdies. It began in November with the burning of three hundred houses in St. John's, probably by an incendiary, and by a frost which lasted until spring. Famine as well as frost and fire was abroad ; half the population lived on the other half, and in January, when every harbour was sealed by frost and men's hearts failed them for fear, a Boston ship came crunching through the ice laden with provisions as a present from our late foes. A kinder act was never done. The winter of the Rals was of political as well as sentimental significance, as it was the first winter in which the Governor resided in his government in order to cope with this sea of troubles. The saddest, darkest, and most dangerous winter, which Newfoundland ever experienced, was the first occasion on which the Governor was converted from a fleeting into a permanent institution, and the revolving light became a fixed light.
* * * *
Now that a Governor was permanently established in the island the last pretence for insinuating that it was not a colony was torn to shreds. Views might differ as to the date at which the birth act was complete ; some might say 1583, others 1610, or 1637, or 1675, or 1729, or 1792 ; others again regarded Governor Pickmore's presence during the winter of the Rals as the first conclusive proof that the colony was in being. If so, “The hour was darkest before the dawn, When the pain was sorest the babe was born,” and the historian is tempted to turn once more from politics to personality and sentiment, for Governor Pickmore was also the first Governor who died in the colony. The mid-winter of the Rals killed him. His residence meant death to him and life to the colony, and he died that it might live.