The Placentia Economy

From the 1660s, the French government expected the population of Plaisance not only to fish but also to cultivate the land, so that the colony would not be entirely dependent on food supplies brought by European ships. Although some planters grew vegetable gardens and kept a few animals, local agriculture never provided sufficient food for the colony.

Farm at Plaisance
Farm at Plaisance
An 18th century sketch of a French farm at Plaisance with a sheep grazing on the roof.
From D.W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland from the English, Colonial, and Foreign Records, 2nd edition (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1896) 186.

The ships arriving from Europe engaged in the summer fishery only, but the planters fished in the fall and spring as well. They would arrange with French ships, coming mainly from La Rochelle, Nantes and Bordeaux, to bring them the food supplies that were indispensable for their survival and trade. New Englanders also came to Plaisance to buy fish and sell goods and, according to the planters, Boston ships were better able to meet their needs. In time, the planters of Plaisance themselves outfitted trading ships which did business with Québec, the West Indies and France.

The planters fished mainly to the west of Plaisance - Trepassey Bay, St. Pierre and Miquelon, St. Mary's Bay, Fortune Bay, Grand Bank, Hermitage - but also on the Petit Nord. Published research does not contain much information about the quantities of fish produced at Plaisance. However, some data exist.

Year Ships arriving Tonnage Crews (men) Cod (quintals)
1703 30 4,060 1,140  71,200
1704 43 5,741 1,508123,000
1705 22 2,710   721---
1706 52 --- ------
1712 24 --- ------

Source: Charles de la Morandière, Histoire de la pêche française de la morue dans l'Amérique septentrionale, G.-P. Maisonneuve et Larose, France, 1962, pp. 498-504.

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