The Nineteenth-Century Fishing Economy
Several readings provide invaluable surveys of the nineteenth-century fishing economy, though few have had as great an impact as David Alexander, "Newfoundland's Traditional Economy and Development to 1934," Acadiensis V: 2(Spring 1976): 56-78; reprinted in J. Hiller & P. Neary (eds.), Newfoundland in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Essays in Interpretations (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980), pp. 17-39 and again in P. Buckner & D. Frank (eds.), Acadiensis Reader: Atlantic Canada Before Confederation (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1985), II: 11-33. Over the years, Shannon Ryan has contributed several detailed examinations of specific aspects of that saltfish economy, beginning with his Masters dissertation, The Newfoundland Cod Fishery in the Nineteenth Century (MA thesis, MUN, 1971). Ryans entry on "Fisheries: 1800-1900" in the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador [hereafter cited as ENL], Vol. II: 144-55 together with his superb analysis of "The Newfoundland Salt Cod Trade in the Nineteenth Century," in J. Hiller & P. Neary (eds.), Newfoundland in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Essays in Interpretations (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980), pp. 40-66, provide as useful an introduction to the complex interactions between productivity, demographic growth, and market conditions as one can find. Ryan provides a more detailed analysis of the fish trade in two recent works; the whole trade is analyzed in Fish Out of Water: The Newfoundland Saltfish Trade, 1814-1914 (St. John's: Breakwater Press, 1986) while the trade with Spain is the focus of Newfoundland-Spanish Saltfish Trade, 1814-1914 (St. John's: Harry Cuff, 1983). A very convenient graphic presentation of the fisheries and trade after 1850 is provided in Plate 37, "Canadian Fisheries, 1850-1900" by C. Grant Head, Rosemary E. Ommer and Patricia A. Thornton in the Historical Atlas of Canada [hereafter cited as HAC], II. The withdrawal of British merchants from the fishing industry and trade is addressed in Peter Perry, "The Newfoundland Trade The Decline and Demise of the Port of Poole, 1815-1894," American Neptune XXVIII: 4(Fall 1968): 275-283, H.J. Trump, "Newfoundland Trade from the Port of Teignmouth in the 19th Century," Transport History IX(Winter 1978): 260-268, and Rosemary Ommer, From Outpost to Outport: A Structural Analysis of the Jersey - Gaspé Cod Fishery, 1767-1886 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991). Plate 15, "Trade to Mid-Century," by David A. Sutherland in HAC, II describes both the importance of St. John's in Newfoundland's nineteenth-century commercial patterns as well as the total dominance of Great Britain in the island's external commercial patterns. What the plate does not reveal is the degree to which informal commerce had developed between Newfoundland's south coast and the French island of St. Pierre or between communities on Newfoundland's west coast and adjacent maritime colonies of British North America.
The Seal Fishery
The commercial seal fishery developed as an important ancillary to the cod fishing industry late in the eighteenth century. Useful introductions to this topic are provided in James K. Hiller, "The Newfoundland Seal Fishery: An Historical Introduction," Bulletin of Canadian Studies VII: 2 (Winter 1983/84): 49-72, Government of Canada, Seals and Sealing in Canada; Report of the Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada, 3 vols. (Ottawa: Supply & Services Canada, 1986), James E. Candow, Of Men and Seals, A History of the Newfoundland Seal Hunt (Ottawa: Canadian Parks Services, Environment Canada, 1989), and Shannon Ryan, "Traditional Commercial Sealing in Newfoundland," in Darrin McGrath (ed.), From Red Ochre to Black Gold (St. John's: Flanker Press, 2001), pp. 42-56 (this last is a revision of Ryan's "Introduction" to his Seals and Sealers: A Pictorial History of the Newfoundland Seal Fishery Based on the Cater Andrews Collection [St. John's, 1987]). However, the most comprehensive study is Shannon Ryan's The Ice Hunters: A History of Newfoundland Sealing to 1914 (St. John's: Breakwater, 1994). Parts of this book were previously published. In "The Industrial Revolution and the Newfoundland Seal Fishery," International Journal of Maritime History IV: 2 (December 1992): 1-43, Ryan explores the relationship between European markets and the demand for seal oil. Though he is primarily interested in nineteenth-century demands, Ryan provides sufficient background material on the earlier period to suggest that the rapid expansion of the seal fishery in the 1790s coincided with expanding demands for quality oil in industrializing England. Chesley Sanger examines the introduction of steam technology to the seal fishery shortly after the middle of the nineteenth century in "The 19th Century Newfoundland Seal Fishery and the Influence of Scottish Whalemen," Polar Record XX: 126 (1980): 235-39; see also his articles on "The Dundee St. Johns Connection: 19th Century Interlinkages Between Scottish Arctic Whaling and the Newfoundland Seal Fishery," Newfoundland Studies IV: 1(Spring 1988): 1-26, and "Changing Technologies and Personal Patterns in Nineteenth-century Newfoundland Sealing," Newfoundland Quarterly CI: 2 (2008): 50-53. Sanger developed an important analysis of the relationship between the seal fishery and the expansion of the demographic frontier in his MA dissertation, Technological and Spatial Adaptation in the Newfoundland Seal Fishery During the 19th Century (MA thesis, MUN, 1973), from which also came his article, "The Evolution of Sealing and the Spread of Permanent Settlement in Northeastern Newfoundland," in John Mannion (ed.), The Peopling of Newfoundland: Essays in Historical Geography (St. John's: Institute of Social and Economic Research, 1977), pp. 136-51.
Capital and Underdevelopment
The seeming failure of the traditional fishing economy to support economic development has intrigued many scholars. Steven Antler's essay, "The Capitalist Underdevelopment of Nineteenth-Century Newfoundland," in Robert Brym and R. James Sacouman (eds.), Underdevelopment and Social Movements in Atlantic Canada (Toronto: New Hogtown Press), pp. 179-202, has sparked some lively discussion, as has David Alexander's "Literacy and Economic Development in Nineteenth Century Newfoundland," Acadiensis X: 1 (Autumn 1980): 3-34, which was subsequently reprinted in David Alexander, Atlantic Canada and Confederation: Essays in Canadian Political Economy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983), pp. 110-43. A broad overview of the relationship between resources, political strategies, and underdevelopment during the nineteenth century and into the twentieth is offered in Valerie Summers, Resource Change in a Resource Economy: The Politics of Underdevelopment in Newfoundland Since 1825 (St. John's: Breakwater, 1994).
If we are to assess the relationship between Newfoundlands state of economic "underdevelopment" and the commercial class that was presumably best positioned to invest in economic diversification, we need to know much more about the merchant class resident in Newfoundland. A significant step towards improving our knowledge about that class has been made through post-graduate dissertations, such as Newfoundland in Transition: the Newfoundland Trade and Robert Newman and Company, 1780-1805 by Margaret A. Chang (MA thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1975), Scottish Merchants in the Newfoundland Trade, 1800-1835: A Colonial Community in Transition (MA thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1987) by J.A. Orr – together with Orr’s more recent paper, “Scottish Merchants in St. John’s, 1780-1835,” in Alan G. Macpherson (ed.), Four Centuries and the City: Perspectives on the Historical Geography of St. John’s (St. John’s: Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2005), pp. 37-52 – and Newfoundland, 1815-1840: A Study of a Mercantocracy (MA thesis, MUN, 1968) by Margaret Smith. One thing is becoming increasingly clear: it would be wrong to assume that the Newfoundland merchant community was conservative and resistant to economic diversity. In "Patrick Morris and Newfoundland Irish Immigration," in Cyril Byrne and Margaret Harry (eds.), Talamh an Eisc; Canadian and Irish Essays (Halifax: Nimbus, 1986), pp. 180-202, John Mannion demonstrates how some merchants supported efforts at economic diversification, if only to complement the fishing economy. Then there is the particular example of the relationship between the traditional fishing economy and investment in the shipping industry, examined in several publications by scholars involved with the Atlantic Canada Shipping Project in the 1970s. See Eric Sager, "The Merchants of Water Street and Capital Investment in Newfoundland's Traditional Economy," in Lewis R. Fischer and Eric Sager (eds.), The Enterprising Canadians: Entrepreneurs and Economic Development in Eastern Canada, 1820-1914 (St. John's: Maritime History Group, 1979), pp. 77-95; Eric Sager, "The Port of St. John's, Newfoundland, 1840-1889: A Preliminary Analysis," in Keith Matthews and Gerald E. Panting (eds.), Ships and Shipbuilding in the North Atlantic Region (St. John's: Atlantic Canada Shipping Project, 1978), pp. 21-39; Eric Sager and Gerry E. Panting, "Staple Economies and the Rise and Decline of the Shipping Industry in Atlantic Canada, 1820-1914," in Lewis Fischer and Gerry E. Panting (eds.), Change and Adaptation in Maritime History: The North Atlantic Fleets in the Nineteenth Century (St. John's: Maritime History Group, 1985), pp. 1-49; and Eric Sager, with Gerald Panting, Maritime Capital: The Shipping Industry in Atlantic Canada, 1820-1914 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990).
But did economic diversification by the merchants necessarily serve the best interests of the Newfoundland people? Mention has already been made of the truck system (see section on settlement), which defined the relationship between Newfoundland merchants and the fishermen who depended on their services and their supplies. The resulting economic condition of nineteenth-century Newfoundland fisherman is examined in Robert M. Lewis, "The Survival of the Planters' Fishery in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Newfoundland," while David Macdonald addresses similar themes with a case study in "They Cannot Pay Us in Money: Newman and Company and the Supplying System in the New foundland Fishery, 1850-1884." Both essays appear in Rosemary E. Ommer (ed.), Merchant Credit and Labour Strategies in Historical Perspective (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1990), pp. 102-113, while Macdonald's essay has also since appeared in Acadiensis XIX: 1(Autumn 1989): 142-155. Ommer's collection includes a useful commentary by Stephen Antler, pp. 129-134 as well as subsequent discussion, pp. 135-137. One conclusion reached by these essays is that the truck system was not necessarily as one-sided as it appeared, a point developed further by Sean Cadigan in such essays as "Merchant Capital, the State, and Labour in a British Colony: Servant-Master Relations and Capital Accumulation in Newfoundland's Northeast-Coast Fishery, 1775-1799," Journal of the Canadian Historical Association II(1991): 17-42, and "Planters, Households and Merchant Capitalism: Northeast-Coast Newfoundland, 1800-1835," in Daniel Samson (ed.), Contested Countryside: Rural Workers and Modern Society in Atlantic Canada, 1800-1950 (Fredericton, NB: Acadiensis Press, 1994). See also Stephen Hay’s historical ethnography of face-to-face master-servant relations in eighteenth-century Labrador, The Creative Misunderstanding of George Cartwright: A Popular Culture in Cartwright’s Labrador, 1770-1786 (MA thesis, Dalhousie University, 2008). More to the point, Sean Cadigan questions whether the attempts by Newfoundland merchants to diversify the economy were appropriate; see his book, Hope and Deception in Conception Bay: Merchant-Settler Relations in Newfoundland, 1785-1855 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995). Sean Cadigan has also considered the response of Newfoundland fisher society in the early nineteenth century to threats of depletion of local fish stocks; see "The Moral Economy of the Commons: Ecology and Equity in the Newfoundland Cod Fishery, 1815-1855," Labour/Le Travail 43 (Spring 1999), 9-42. Cadigan shows that fisherfolk attempted to regulate access to common-property marine resources through both protest of and resistance to new fishing technologies that seemed to threaten local cod stocks. He gives particular attention to William Kelson, a mercantile agent who supported the desire in the late 1840s to preserve a customary and equitable right of access to fish stocks.
Newfoundland Politics to 1869
The unpredictability of the Newfoundland fishing economy
contributed to the volatility of nineteenth century Newfoundland politics. Traditionally,
political history began with representative government in 1832, a view captured in the
title of the standard work on early nineteenth century Newfoundland politics, Gertrude
Gunn's The Political History of Newfoundland, 1832-1864 (Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1966). A more suitable benchmark might be 1825, the year that
Newfoundland formally became a colony of Great Britain in the legal and
administrative sense, and not simply a fishery. From 1825 to 1832, Newfoundland
had a purely appointive administration, with Thomas Cochrane as the first
civilian governor; a useful biography of the man is found in the Dictionary
of Canadian Biography, Vol. X, pp. 178-180. Cochrane hoped to introduce
some ambitious social and economic reforms to Newfoundland, and throughout his
years of service, he kept detailed journals. A useful sampling of the rich
details and observations left by Gov. Cochrane is provided by Pam Pekins in
“Thomas Cochrane and Newfoundland in the 1820s,” Newfoundland and Labrador
Studies XXIX: 1 (Spring 2014): 117-168.
Yet Cochrane was not sympathetic to the emerging desire for representative government, and his administration was therefore characterized by political disputes and controversy. Considerable effort has been made to analyse the sources of the Newfoundland reform impulse between 1800 and 1832; see Raymond Lahey, "Religion and Politics in Newfoundland: The Antecedents of the General Election of 1832," in Melvin Baker (comp.), Newfoundland Historical Readings, 1815-1949 for History 3120 by Correspondence (St. John's: Memorial University of Newfoundland, Division of Continuing Studies, 1986), pp. 249-262, and Keith Matthews, "The Class of '32: St. John's Reformers on the Eve of Representative Government," Acadiensis VI: 2 (Spring 1977): 80-94, reprinted in Phillip Buckner and David Frank (eds)., Acadiensis Reader: Atlantic Canada Before Confederation (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1985), I: 212-26. See also Patrick O'Flaherty, "The Seeds of Reform: Newfoundland, 1800-18," Journal of Canadian Studies XXIII: 3 (Fall 1988): 39-59, and his "Government in Newfoundland before 1832: The Context of Reform," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXXIV: 2(Fall 1988): 26-30.
Even after 1832, the first few decades of representative government were turbulent ones politically; the antagonism between an appointive council and an elective assembly which existed elsewhere in British North America was replicated here, with the added complication of denominational and ethnic polarization. Useful surveys of political developments in this era are given in chapter 14 of Frederick Rowe, A History of Newfoundland and Labrador (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1980), in W.S. MacNutt, The Atlantic Provinces: The Emergence of Colonial Society (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1966), chapters 8(iv), 9(iii), and 10(v), and the first two chapters of S.J.R. Noel, Politics in Newfoundland (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971). The only detailed treatment of the era remains that of Gertrude Gunn, The Political History of Newfoundland, 1832-1864 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966). The best way that a student can add to or revise these interpretations is to make extensive use of the numerous entries found in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography [cited here as DCB]; a number of these, but by no means all, are cited below.
The 1832 election gave control of both the Council and the Assembly to the predominantly Protestant merchants of St. John's or their agents, like John Martin (DCB VII: 590-591). Satisfied with the degree of political influence that representative government gave them, they lost their enthusiasm for further change. They were supported in their conservatism by individuals like Chief Justice Henry Boulton (DCB IX: 69-72), newspaper editor Henry Winton (DCB VIII: 947-951), George Lilly (DCB VII: 507-508), and others. At the same time, the Assembly came increasingly under the control of a more radical point of view. William Carson (DCB VII: 151-157) remained an important reformer, but more and more, the typical reformer was Irish and Catholic, like Patrick Morris (DCB VII: 626-634), John Valentine Nugent (DCB X: 552-553), Peter Brown (VII: 112-114), and John Kent (DCB X: 398-401). Their power base among poorer fishermen encouraged a populist political agenda, with the result that the sectarian character of political polarization was often class-based. Nevertheless, disputes such as that between Kent and Edward Kielley (DCB VIII: 467-470), which exposed the intensity of animosity, were often highly personal in nature. By the early 1840s, the radicals controlled the Assembly and the conservatives controlled the Council. The ensuing stalemate so exasperated Governor Henry Prescott (DCB X: 600-601) that he tried to resign in 1838, eventually succeeding in 1841. Replacing him was Sir John Harvey (DCB VIII: 374-384), under whom the constitutional arrangement of 1832 was suspended and the two legislative chambers amalgamated.
Harvey attempted to overcome the divisive tensions of the 1830s and '40s by promoting social harmony and a sense of colonial patriotism. Phillip McCann examines the social rituals and festivities expressive of nativism, patriotism and local culture that were invented as a result. These quickly came to be seen as "traditional" and were to penetrate the incipient national and social consciousness of mid-nineteenth-century Newfoundland. See Phillip McCann, "Culture, State Formation and the Invention of Tradition: Newfoundland 1832-1855," Journal of Canadian Studies XXIII: 1&2 (Spring & Summer 1988): 86-103; reprinted in Chad Gaffield (ed.), The Invention of Canada: Readings in Pre-Confederation History (Toronto: Copp Clark Longman, 1994), pp. 271-289.
The so-called "struggle for responsible government" dominates the political history of other British North American colonies in the 1840s, and students would be well-advised to familiarize themselves with those sources that examine the larger context. Phillip Buckner has almost nothing to say about Newfoundland in The Transition to Responsible Government: British Policy in British North America, 1815-1850 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985), yet he provides an invaluable analysis of the way in which British administration and political policy in British North America was shaped. In Newfoundland the experiment with the amalgamated assembly caused the debate over responsible government to be delayed. When John Gaspard LeMarchant (DCB X: 438-439) replaced John Harvey as Governor in 1847, and quickly expressed his disapproval at the power exercised by the merchant class, the decision was made to restore representative government in the colony. Almost immediately, the debate over the principle of responsible began. Prominent in that debate would be newspaper editor Robert Parsons (DCB XI: 673-674), John Kent, and Philip Little (DCB XII: 563-566). Their efforts to secure what neighbouring colonies already enjoyed were resisted, both by the merchant class and by some British officials, like the governor from 1852 until 1855, Ker Baillie Hamilton (DCB XI: 43-44), who was convinced that Newfoundland's political polarization made the colony unfit for self-government. Acting Solicitor General, Hugh Hoyles (DCB XI: 431-434) unsuccessfully represented Newfoundland in a petition to London against responsible government. However, by 1854 the British government generally, and the Colonial Secretary the Duke of Newcastle in particular, were unreceptive to such arguments, and instructed the governor to accept the principle.
Clearly, the role of the British government in bringing responsible government to Newfoundland was crucial; this is all the more reason for students to consult Buckner's study. Nevertheless an important element which added complexity to the debate was political sectarianism. The sectarian character of political polarization in Newfoundland was such that church and state had long been hopelessly entangled. It was partly because of this fact that the British government had granted representative government with such misgivings in 1832, believing that the island was not yet ready for it, and it had contributed to the decision to suspend representative government in 1842. The unusual direction in which Newfoundland politics seemed to go led John Manning Ward to give some attention to the island in a chapter entitled "Anomalous Societies: Newfoundland and New South Wales" in his book on Colonial Self-Government; The British Experience, 1759-1856 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976).
Of the clergymen who figured prominently in the political affairs of the colony, Anglican Bishop Feild has received the most extensive attention, though the only full biographical treatment is a doctoral dissertation, Bishop Feild, a study in politics and religion in nineteenth century Newfoundland by Frederick Jones (PhD thesis, Cambridge University, 1971), which is extremely scarce. Students must therefore rely on more accessible sources, such as the booklet by Frederick Jones on Edward Feild, Bishop of Newfoundland 1844-1876 (St. John's: Newfoundland Historical Society, 1976) as well as journal articles such as “The Making of a Colonial Bishop: Feild of Newfoundland,” also by Frederick Jones, in Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society XV: 1(1973): 2-13. Feild was a significant force in bringing about the Church of England’s shift in Newfoundland from an evangelical religion to a tractarian one, a shift that did not occur without resistance, as Fred Jones makes clear in "The Early Opposition to Bishop Feild of Newfoundland," Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society XVI: 2(1974): 30-41. The theme is further explored through a case study by Calvin Hollett in “Evagelicals vs. Tractarians. Resistance to Bishop Feild at Harbour Buffett, Placentia Bay, 1849-1854,” Newfoundland Studies XVIII: 2 (Fall 2002): 245-278; this article is derived from Mr. Hollett's dissertation, Resistance to Bishop Edward Feild in Newfoundland, 1845-1857, Harbour Buffet: A Case Study (MA thesis, MUN, 2002). However, it is Feild's political significance and the issue of sectarianism that receive more frequent attention from historians, as for instance in Feild’s role in the coming of responsible government, explored by Frederick Jones in "The Great Fire of 1846 and the Coming of Responsible Government in Newfoundland," Bulletin of Canadian Studies VI: 2/VII:1(Autumn 1983): 61-69.
While the other side
of the sectarian question has received less attention, it has certainly not been
ignored. With a population in which roughly half the people were Irish
immigrants or of recent Irish descent, not surprisingly the Roman Catholic
Church was also a powerful social, cultural and political force in Newfoundland.
There has been a tendency at times to treat “Catholics” as a homogeneous group –
Protestants perhaps less so because of the Dissenting sects. This tendency is
present in Raymond J. Lahey’s essay, “Catholicism and Colonial Policy in
Newfoundland, 1779-1845” in Terrence Murphy and Gerald Stortz (eds.),
and Culture: The Place of English-Speaking Catholics in Canadian Society,
1750-1930 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1993), pp. 49-78.
Even contemporaries perceived a fairly standard “Irish Catholic” stereotype; see
Ronald Romkey, “French Perceptions of Irish Catholics in Nineteenth-Century
Newfoundland,” Newfoundland & Labrador Studies XXVI: 2 (Fall 2011):
231-240. Yet care must be taken in drawing too uniform a conclusion about
Catholic attitudes and positions on issues, particularly as the population of
the colony grew, became more dispersed, and as clergy began to be recruited from
different parts of the Catholic world. Mark G. McGowan provides a useful
cautionary analysis of Newfoundland Catholicism in “‘Pregnant with Perils’:
Canadian Catholicism and Its Relation to the Catholic Churches of Newfoundland,
1840-1949,” Newfoundland & Labrador Studies
XXVIII: 2 (Fall 2013):
193-218; through his focus on the relationship between Canadian and Newfoundland
Catholics, he shows that Catholic positions could differ considerably depending
on just where in Newfoundland they resided.
Still, given the degree to which the Irish Catholic clergy were based in Newfoundland’s social, economic and political centre, namely St. John’s, there is also a great deal of truth in the standard interpretation. This is particularly true when we focus on the politics of Irish Roman Catholics in the nineteenth century. The most detailed examination of the theme has been given by John Fitzgerald in his doctoral dissertation, Conflict and Culture in Irish-Newfoundland Roman Catholicism, 1829-1850 (PhD thesis, University of Ottawa, 1997). At least one article has emerged out of this dissertation; see “Michael Anthony Fleming and Ultramontanism in Irish-Newfoundland Roman Catholicism, 1829-1850,” Canadian Catholic Historical Association Historical Studies, LXIV (1998): 27-45, while another paper by Phillip McCann on “Bishop Fleming and the Politicization of the Irish Roman Catholics in Newfoundland, 1830-1850” appeared in Cyril Byrne and Terrence Murphy (eds.), Religion and Identity: The Experience of Irish and Scottish Catholics in Atlantic Canada (St. John's: Jesperson Press, 1987), pp. 81-97.
The theme of Protestant-Catholic tension in politics persists into the 1850s and ’60s. James K. Hiller introduces a document reflecting a Protestant view of the 1855 election in Bonavista Bay, the election that ushered in responsible government to Newfoundland; see "The 1855 Election in Bonavista Bay: An Anglican Perspective," Newfoundland Studies V: 1(Spring 1989): 69-76. Frederick Jones explores both sides of the sectarian question in "Bishops in politics: Roman Catholic vs. Protestant in Newfoundland, 1860-62," Canadian Historical Review LV: 4 (December 1974): 408-421, while E.C. Moulton focuses on the climax to Newfoundland's era of sectarian strife in "Constitutional Crisis and Civil Strife in Newfoundland, February to November, 1861," Canadian Historical Review XLVIII: 3 (September 1967): 251-267. Additional essays can be found in the DCB on Roman Catholic bishops Fleming (VII: 292-300) and Mullock (IX: 581-586) and Church of England bishop Spencer (X: 663-664) in addition to that on Feild (X: 278-281). Edward Troy (X: 687-688) was another Catholic clergyman who figured prominently in the turbulent politics of the 1830s.
Of course, as in the eighteenth century, so too in the nineteenth century, the sectarian tensions that have fascinated so many historians as they examined the political turbulence of the early- to mind-1800s often masked animosities that were driven by class differences and economic divisions. The attention that once was focussed so heavily on political sectarianism has increasingly been balanced by awareness of other sources of public discontent and disorder. See, for example, “Collective Action During the Newfoundland Election Disturbances of 1861,” an Honours dissertation (MUN, 1986) by Howard Gerard Coombs, or the essay by Joy Fraser, “Mummers on Trial: Mumming, Violence and the Law in Conception Bay and St. John’s, Newfoundland, 1831-1863,” in Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures III: 2 (2009), pp. 70-88. Finally be sure to read "Collective Action in Outport Newfoundland: A Case Study from the 1830s," a paper by Linda Little on sealing protests which was published in Labour/Le Travail XXVI(Fall 1990), pp. 7-35 [esp. pp. 25-34] and which was drawn from Little’s Master’s dissertation, Plebeian Collective Action in Harbour Grace and Carbonear, Newfoundland, 1830-1840 (MA thesis, MUN, 1984).
The polarization of Newfoundland politics along ethnic, religious, and economic lines was exacerbated by a deteriorating fishing economy by the early 1860s. This situation encouraged Newfoundland's political leaders to identify and promote strategies that they felt would provide their society with a standard of living commensurate to that of other North Atlantic societies. One theme that ensued from this situation was the promotion of economic development; too often, the results failed to meet expectations, as Valerie Summers shows in Resource Change in a Resource Economy: The Politics of Underdevelopment in Newfoundland Since 1825 (St. John's: Breakwater, 1994). Another theme was the support some Newfoundlanders began to give to the idea of a federal union with the rest of British North America. Historians have often examined Newfoundland's flirtation with confederation, despite (or perhaps because of) the rejection of the idea by island voters in 1869. There was a brief flurry of publications on the subject in 1949, generated by Newfoundland's admission that year to the Canadian federation. H.B. Mayo examined "Newfoundland and Confederation in the Eighteen-Sixties" for the Canadian Historical Review XXIX: 2(June 1948): 125-142. A.M. Fraser examined not only the 1860s but later decades as well in "The Nineteenth-Century Negotiations for Confederation of Newfoundland with Canada," Canadian Historical Association Annual Report (1949): 14-21. Peter Waite devoted a chapter to Newfoundland in his study of The Life and Times of Confederation, 1864-1867 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962). However, the best study in recent years is James K. Hiller's essay on "Confederation Defeated: The Newfoundland Election of 1869," in James Hiller and Peter Neary (eds.) Newfoundland in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Essays in Interpretations (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980), pp. 67-94. Hiller carefully sets out the religious, social, and economic context for the 1869 campaign which saw heated emotions lead to a rejection of confederation by Newfoundland voters. Frederick Jones offers both an historiographical survey of the theme and a mild revision of Hiller's essay in "`The Antis Gain the Day': Newfoundland and Confederation 1869," in Ged Martin (ed.), The Causes of Canadian Confederation (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1990), pp. 142-147. Jones maintains that union with Canada was genuinely not in Newfoundland's best interests in 1869. In “‘Pregnant with Perils’: Canadian Catholicism and Its Relation to the Catholic Churches of Newfoundland, 1840-1949,” Newfoundland & Labrador Studies XXVIII: 2 (Fall 2013): 193-218, Mark G. McGowan touches upon the way in which Catholics in Western Newfoundland tended to respond differently to the Confederation question than did Catholics in Eastern Newfoundland. The DCB provides several excellent biographies of key figures in the confederation debate, including Sir Frederick Carter (XII: 161-165), Charles James Fox Bennett (XI: 65-69), Governors Sir Anthony Musgrave (XI: 634-637) and Stephen Hill (XII 439-470); there are also instructive essays on lesser-known figures like John Bemister (XII: 91-92) and Sir Robert Pinsent (XII: 843-845). Readers wishing to place the confederation question of the 1860s into a broader context of Newfoundland's several responses to the idea of confederation in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries should consult the essay by James K. Hiller, "Newfoundland Confronts Canada, 1867-1949," in E.R. Forbes and D.A. Muise (eds.), The Atlantic Provinces in Confederation (Toronto: University of Toronto Press and Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1993), pp. 349-381. This essay supplants the previous standard survey by Terry Campbell and George Rawlyk, "The Historical Framework of Newfoundland and Confederation," in G.A. Rawlyk (ed.), The Atlantic Provinces and the Problems of Confederation (St. John's: Breakwater Press, 1979), pp. 48-84.
Social and Cultural History
Newfoundland social history was dominated by the denominational polarization of island society. A useful starting point in understanding the social and political character of nineteenth century Newfoundland is therefore Frederick Jones, "The Church in Nineteenth Century Newfoundland," Bulletin of Canadian Studies V: 1(April 1981): 25-40. One consequence of the powerful sectarian factor is the system of education which, until very recently, was a denominational one. Accordingly, the history of education is inseparable from the history of religious institutions. A thorough overview of the early history of education in Newfoundland can be found in Jo Oppenheimer, Some Patterns in the Early History of Newfoundland Education, 1578-1836 (MEd thesis, MUN, 1983). Church involvement in early education is traced in Frederick Rowe, Education and Culture in Newfoundland (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1976), while James B. Healey focuses on the particular contribution of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in his Masters of Education dissertation, An Educational History of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Newfoundland, 1703-1850 (MEd. thesis, MUN,1994). Greater particular detail on the emergence of early education is provided in Bonita Power and Hans Rollmann, "Bonavista's `Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water': The First School in Newfoundland," Humanities Association of Canada Bulletin XVII: 1(April 1989): 27-33 (also on-line at http://www.mun.ca/rels/ang/texts/ang2.html), Garfield Fizzard, "Newfoundland's First Known School," Newfoundland Studies XI: 2 (Fall 1995): 179-98 and in Sister Mary Nolasco Mulcahy, "The St. John's Schools of Industry," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXVIII: 4(Spring 1983): 17-22. A succinct survey of the origins and subsequent development of education in Newfoundland during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is provided by Gordon Billard in "Very Early Schools and the Curriculum," Newfoundland Quarterly LXX: 2(November 1973): 36-39. A revised and expanded version of Billards paper appeared recently as "Early Newfoundland Schools and the Curriculum," Newfoundland Quarterly XCIII: 3&4 (Spring/Summer 2000): 21-28. Another useful but very uncritical summary of the development of education is contained in William B. Hamilton, "Society and Schools in Newfoundland," in J.Donald Wilson, Robert M. Stamp, and Louis-Philippe Audet (eds.), Canadian Education: A History (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, 1970), pp. 126-144. For a more analytical look at the origins of education in Newfoundland, see John W. Netten, "Aims of Education in Newfoundland: A Historical Overview," pp. 19-26 and Phillip McCann, "The History of Education in Newfoundland: An Essay in Exploration," pp. 11-16, both in Ishmael Baksh & Romulo Magsino (eds.), Schools and Society Readings (St. John's: Department of Educational Foundations, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1980). Philip McCann also provides an excellent analysis of the relationship between church and education in "The Newfoundland School Society 1823-1836: Missionary Influence or Cultural Imperialism?," in J.A. Mangan (ed.), Benefits Bestowed? Education and British Imperialism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988).
W. Gordon Handcock's essay on Samuel Codner in DCB, VIII: 164-167 demonstrates that the origins of education in Newfoundland owed something to local merchant/philanthropists. Nevertheless, it was the denominational character of education that was the dominant factor and which impinged heavily upon political debate in nineteenth-century Newfoundland; see Frederick Jones, "Religion, Education and Politics in Newfoundland, 1836-1875," Journal of the Canadian Church History Society XII: 4(1970): 64-76 as well as Phillip McCann, "The Politics of Denominational Education in the Nineteenth Century in Newfoundland," in William McKim (ed.), The Vexed Question: Denominational Education in a Secular Age (St. John's: Breakwater, 1988), pp. 30-59. The role of Edward Feild, the Church of England bishop in Newfoundland at mid-century, in establishing the denominational system of education is examined in John W. Netten, "Edward Feild, Protagonist of Denominational Education," in Robert S. Patterson, John Chalmers, and John Friesen (eds.), Profiles of Canadian Educators (Toronto: D.C. Heath Canada, 1974), pp. 77-94, while in “Edward Feild, Inspector of Schools, 1840-1,” Journal of Educational Administration & History (July 1977), pp. 8-13, Frederick Jones places Edward Feild’s role as inspector of schools within the context of both the history of education in Newfoundland and the history of Feild’s own emergence as a major figure in Newfoundland educational and religious history. The relationship between education and economic development is addressed in a superb study by David Alexander, "Literacy and Economic Development in Nineteenth Century Newfoundland," Acadiensis X: 1(Autumn 1980): 3-34; this has been reprinted in David Alexander, Atlantic Canada and Confederation: Essays in Canadian Political Economy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983), pp. 110-43. Phillip McCann explores the relationships of "Class, Gender and Religion in Newfoundland Education, 1836-1901," Historical Studies in Education/Revue d'histoire de l'éducation I: 2(1989): 179-200.
The social problems associated with underdevelopment and widespread poverty were pervasive in nineteenth-century Newfoundland yet extremely difficult to relieve. Judith Fingard places the problem in a wider British North American context in "The Winter's Tale: Contours of Pre-Industrial Poverty in British America, 1815-1860," Canadian Histori cal Association Historical Papers 1974, pp. 65-94, reprinted in J.M. Bumsted (ed.), Interpreting Canada's Past, Volume I: Before Confederation (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 248-272. Fingard focuses on the urban setting in the widely reprinted essay, "The Relief of the Unemployed Poor in St. John, Halifax and St. John's, 1815- 1860," Acadiensis V: 1(Autumn 1975): 32-53; reprinted in A. Artibise & J. Stelter (eds.), The Canadian City: Essays in Urban and Social History (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1984), pp. 341-67, in J. Bumsted (ed.), Canadian History Before Confederation: Essays and Interpretations (2nd ed.; Georgetown: Irwin-Dorsey, 1979)), pp. 446-466, and in all three editions of Acadiensis Reader: Volume One, Atlantic Canada Before Confederation (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1985, 1990, 1998), edited by P.A. Buckner, David Frank, and (the third edition) Gail G. Campbell (pp. 190-211, 198-219 and 237-258 respectively). In "Representative-beggars of a Set of Paupers': The Politics of Social Welfare and Traditional Newfoundland," Newfoundland Studies XIII: 2 (Autumn 1997): 142-152, Robert M. Lewis questions the assumption that collective social welfare in Newfoundland is a recent phenomenon without a strong historical tradition; his analysis begins in the late eighteenth century. One approach to the challenge of poverty and public welfare is examined in Sister Mary Nolasco Mulcahy, "The St. John's Schools of Industry," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXVIII: 4(Spring 1983): 17-22. Stuart R. Godfrey introduces his Human Rights and Social Policy in Newfoundland 1832-1982: Search for a Just Society (St. John's: Harry Cuff, 1985) with an examination of public welfare in early nineteenth century Newfoundland, while the particular experience of St. John's is the focus of Melvin Baker, "The Politics of Poverty: Providing Public Poor Relief in Nineteenth Century St. John's," in M. Baker, Aspects of Nineteenth Century St. John's Municipal History (St. John's: Creative Printers & Publishers, 1982), pp. 17-30. The larger question of maintaining public order has not been given the attention it is due. Melvin Baker discusses the origins of police services in "Policing in St. John's, 1806-1871," in M. Baker, Aspects of Nineteenth Century St. John's Municipal History (St. John's: Creative Printers & Publishers, 1982), pp. 5-16. The main instrument available to nineteenth century authorities in maintaining public order, however, was military aid. This theme is discussed to some extent in Olaf Janzen, "Military Garrisons," ENL, III: 540-549, but a thorough study of the use of military assistance by civil authorities remains to be written. The military establishment in St. John's was also a significant source of relief services in certain emergencies. Fires were one such kind of emergency. Built almost entirely of wood and with little effective attention to planning, St. John's was vulnerable to fire. John C. Weaver and Peter De Lottinville use St. John's as one of their examples in "The Conflagration and the City: Disaster and Progress in British North America during the Nineteenth Century," Histoire Sociale/Social History XIII: 26(November 1980): 417-449. Melvin Baker examines the most catastrophic fire of the early nineteenth century in his article, "The Great St. John's Fire of 1846," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXIX: 1(Summer 1983): 31-34, and analyses attempts to address this threat in "Voluntarism and the Fire Service in Nineteenth Century St. John's," in M. Baker, Aspects of Nineteenth Century St. John's Municipal History (St. John's: Creative Printers & Publishers, 1982), pp. 31-47. Paul O'Neill examines many of these themes in his detailed but essentially descriptive work, The Story of St. John's, Newfoundland. Vol. I: The Oldest City; Volume 2: A Seaport Legacy (Erin, Ontario: Press Porcepic, 1975, 1976). Long out of print, the two volumes of O'Neill's book were recently reprinted as a single volume with the title The Oldest City: The Story of St. John's (St. John's: Boulder Publications, 2004). Another, more recent and eclectic collection of essays on the history of St. John’s was recently edited by Alan G. Macpherson, an historical geographer at Memorial University. Four of the essays in Four Centuries and the City: Perspectives on the Historical Geography of St. John’s (St. John’s: Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2005) touch upon the early modern period: Alan G. Macpherson, “The Demographic History of St. John’s, 1627-2001: An Introductory Essay,” pp. 1-18; Joyce Brown Macpherson, “The Vegetational History of St. John’s,” pp. 19-36; Jeffrey A. Orr, “Scottish Merchants in St. John’s, 1780-1835,” pp. 37-52; and Robert MacKinnon, “The Agricultural Fringe of St. John’s, 1750-1945,” pp. 53-81.
Relatively little is known about treatment of the sick in early Newfoundland, as medical history, like so many other themes, has been given only sporadic attention. Paul ONeill gives the theme of early medicine an anecdotal overview in "So Sorrowfully Provided For: Early Medicine in Newfoundland," Newfoundland Quarterly (Spring 2001), 35-41. The Rev. Dr. John Clinch, who did pioneering work with innoculation against smallpox in eighteenth-century Trinity, is probably the single best-known individual medical figure before 1815; see Geoff Peddle, "The Rev. Dr. John Clinch of Trinity, Medical Pioneer and Missionary," Newfoundland Quarterly LXXXII: 1(Summer 1986): 42-8 as well as the essay on Clinch by Frederick Jones in DCB V, 189-90. Relatively little is known at the moment about the medical services provided in Newfoundland by naval surgeons serving on board the warships stationed in Newfoundland, though this will surely change as historians begin to focus some attention on them. Reference has already been made elsewhere to the article by Jerry Bannister on "Surgeons and Criminal Justice in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland," in Greg T. Smith, Allyson N. May, Simon Devereaux (eds.), Criminal Justice in the Old World and the New: Essays in Honour of J.M. Beattie (Toronto: Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, 1998), 104-134, though Bannisters emphasis in this paper is primarily on the role of surgeons in criminal trials in Newfoundland before 1792. Until Bannister and others publish more on the topic, students interested in the services provided by naval surgeons afloat and ashore during the eighteenth century will be obliged to rely on such sources as Joan Druett. Rough Medicine, Surgeons at Sea in the Age of Sail (New York & London: Routledge, 2000). Predictably perhaps, the greatest amount of attention to the history of medicine in early Newfoundland has been given to the period after 1815, when records become more detailed and comprehensive. Thus, "Disease and Public Health Measures in St. John's, Newfoundland, 1832-1855," is the focus of an article by Melvin Baker in The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXVIII: 4(Spring 1983): 26-9. Baker was also one of the first to examine the treatment of mental illness in his article on "Insanity and Politics: The Establishment of a Lunatic Asylum in St. John's, Newfoundland, 1836-1855," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXVII: 2 & 3(Summer/Fall 1981): 27-31, though this has since been superseded and expanded by Patricia O'Brien, Out of Mind, Out of Sight; A History of the Waterford Hospital (St. John's: Breakwater Press, 1989). Finally, for an entirely different perspective on the nature of medical treatment in early Newfoundland, students should consult John K. Crellin, Home Medicine: The Newfoundland Experience (Montréal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994), which includes discussion of folk cures and self-treatment as well as a social history of pharmaceutical practices and products in Newfoundland.
Research into Newfoundland labour history has tended to focus on the emergence of organized labour in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Relatively little work has been done on the earlier period. One exception is the attention given to maritime labour by the Atlantic Canada Shipping Project and subsequently by the Maritime History Group at Memorial University of Newfoundland. An overview of this work is provided in Eric W. Sager, "The Maritime History Group and the History of Seafaring Labour," Labour/Le Travail 15(Spring 1985): 165-172. Sager's conclusions about the condition of seafaring labour in Newfoundland appear in Seafaring Labour: The Merchant Marine of Atlantic Canada, 1820-1914 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1989); Sager makes it clear that the condition of labour in the codfishing fleets did not follow precisely the same pattern as elsewhere in Atlantic Canada, in part because the fishing fleet was slower than other fleets to respond to the forces of industrialization. See also Eric Sager, with Gerald Panting, Maritime Capital: The Shipping Industry in Atlantic Canada, 1820-1914 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990). Linda Little examined early nineteenth-century labour protests in Conception Bay in "Collective Action in Outport Newfoundland: A Case Study from the 1830s," Labour/Le Travail XXVI (Fall 1990): 7-35; this article was subsequently reprinted in David Frank and Gregory Kealey (eds.), Labour & Working-Class History in Atlantic Canada: A Reader (St. John's: ISER, 1995), pp. 41-70
One field in which very little scholarly work has been done is that of the history of science and technology in Newfoundland. One noteworthy exception to this general rule is the attention that has been to the visit of Joseph Banks during the summer of 1766. Though only twenty-three at the time, Banks' curiosity and observations already gave a clear indication of the talent that would soon earn him a berth on James Cook's first Pacific expedition and eventually carry Banks to the highest scientific honours his country had to offer. The young botanist recorded his vivid impressions of Newfoundland, both of its flora and fauna as well as of its society, in a journal which has since been published, with editing and supporting essays by A.M. Lysaght; see Joseph Banks in Newfoundland and Labrador, 1766; His Diary, Manuscripts and Collections (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971). Barry Baldwin provides a brief sketch of Banks' visit in "A Naturalist in Newfoundland," The Beaver LXXVII: 3 (June/July 1997): 14-16, as does Patrick O'Brian in his biography of the great botanist, Joseph Banks, A Life: Explorer, Plant hunter, Scientist (London: Collins Harvill, 1987).A less prominent scientific figure was John Winthrop, a Harvard professor who visited Newfoundland in 1761 in hopes of observing the transit of Venus across the face of the Sun and thereby collecting data essential to the debate concerning the size of the universe; see Mary Bridson, “John Winthrop and the Transit of Venus: ‘How Astronomy transports us into distant Futurity!’,” Newfoundland Quarterly XCVII: 1 (Spring 2004): 40-42.
No single individual dominates those investigating the history of science and technology of nineteenth-century Newfoundland as Banks did the eighteenth century. James S. Pringle has written on "Jewell David Sornborger (1869- 1929). An Early Biological Explorer in Newfoundland and Labrador," Canadian Horticultural History I: 4(1988): 210-221. The DCB also offers several important essays. Frederic Gisborne, who played an instrumental role in developing the island's telegraph systems in the 1850s and 1860s, is given solid treatment (XII: 373-376). The geological reconnaissances in the interior of Newfoundland by William Epps Cormack in the 1820s (IX: 159-162) and William Joseph Jukes in the 1840s (IX: 417-419) laid some of the groundwork for the geological surveys of Alexander Murray in the 1860s (XI: 630-633). Apart from these essays in the DCB, the only scholarly treatment on the important work of these men is J. Malpas and A.F. King, "Pioneers of Geological Exploration, Mapping and Mining in Newfoundland," in Donald Steele (ed.), Early Science in Newfoundland and Labrador (St. John's: Avalon Chapter of Sigma Chi, 1987), pp. 8-28. Of course, the journal recording Jokes' own impressions of Newfoundland have been published. Look for his Excursions In and About Newfoundland, During the Years 1839 and 1840, 2 vols. (London: John Murray, 1842; reprinted Toronto: Canadiana House, 1969), or for the edition of his journal edited by Robert Cuff and Derek Wilton, Jukes' Excursions, Being a revised edition of Joseph Beete Jukes' "Excursions In and About Newfoundland During the Years 1839 and 1840" (St. John's: Harry Cuff, 1993). But unlike Banks' journal, that of Jukes records few scientific observations, and is of interest primarily as a first-hand account of Newfoundland social and economic development in mid-nineteenth century. An essay with an entirely different scientific focus in Steele's intriguing collection is Alan G. Macpherson, "Early Moravian Interest in Northern Labrador Weather and Climate: The Beginning of Instrument Recording in Newfoundland," pp. 30-41.
The story of trans-Atlantic communications belongs properly in the late nineteenth and twentieth century, but its technological origins can be found in the 1850s. Trans-Atlantic telegraph cable linkages with Europe would introduce profound changes to the knowledge and certainty of overseas market conditions for Newfoundland fish merchants. The landing of the first successful cable at Heart’s Content in 1866, and the establishment of cable stations in Newfoundland, were therefore very important. But the first trans-Atlantic cable actually linking Newfoundland and Europe was briefly in operation in 1858 before it failed; see Ted Rowe, "Frederic Gisborne, Cyrus Field and the Atlantic Cable of 1858," Newfoundland Quarterly, CI: 2 (2008): 16-18, 38-42.
Another field which has received little attention is the question of Newfoundland culture. Though Newfoundland has one of the more distinct cultural identities in Canada today, we know very little about the emergence of that identity out of the cultural heritage of the early inhabitants. Music is a particularly important component of modern New foundland culture, yet we know little about the music that was characteristic of early Newfoundland society. The only serious study of music as a cultural element of early Newfoundland is found in the opening chapters of Paul Woodford, "We Love the Place, O Lord": A history of the written musical tradition of Newfoundland and Labrador to 1949 (St. John's: Creative, 1988). Woodford also contributed the essay on "Music" in the ENL IV: 667-676.
Return to "Reader's Guide" Home Page
Proceed to "Labrador"