The Early Settling of Newfoundland
European fishermen had been lured to Newfoundland by the fishery since the beginning of the sixteenth century. Yet their presence was required only for a few months of the year; the fishing population was a migratory or seasonal one, returning to homelands in Europe at the end of each fishing season. It was therefore a standard assumption among historians that attempts to colonize the island early in the seventeenth century were not successful, and that a resident population emerged only in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Not until 1825 was Newfoundland granted official status as a colony; until then, it remained officially a fishing post. The seemingly slow rate of growth and development was explained by historians as a consequence of a fundamental hostility between the needs of a migratory fisherman for free access to beaches and shore resources and the needs of the settler for permanent occupation of property. Reinforcing this argument was the claim that the state persistently declared settlement to be forbidden and attempted to prevent permanent settlement in favour of a purely seasonal fishery based on a migratory labour force. Only recently has this “illegal settlement” paradigm been recognized as an historical myth and displaced by a recognition that the growth of a permanent population in Newfoundland not only began much earlier than the late seventeenth century but was always intimately linked to the fishery. Indeed, permanent settlement had its greatest success wherever merchants and traders had established themselves. In this regard, a very useful essay to examine is “Historical Fence-building: a critique of the historiography of Newfoundland,” Newfoundland Quarterly LXXIV (Spring 1978): 21-30 by Keith Matthews; it has since been reprinted with annotations and corrections in Newfoundland Studies XVII: 2 (Fall 2001): 143-165.
Peter Pope has since developed sophisticated arguments which convincingly link the fishery and settlement. Basically, Newfoundland reversed the usual pattern in the early history of North America. Where mainland colonies were shaped by an abundance of land and a shortage of labour, the Newfoundland fisheries had no shortage of labour but strong competition for limited beach space needed to "make" or cure fish. This led to strategies that encouraged over-wintering and concentration by Europeans from the same home districts. Pope developed these arguments in a number of articles. See for example "The European Occupation of Southeast Newfoundland: Archaeological Perspectives on Competition for Fishing Rooms, 1530-1680," in Christian Roy, Jean Bélisle, Marc-André Bernier, and Brad Loewen (eds.), ArchéoLogiques; Collection Hors-Série 1. Mer et Monde: Questions d’archéologie maritime (Québec: Association des archéologiques du Québec, 2003), pp. 122-133; and "Transformation of the Maritime Cultural Landscape of Atlantic Canada by Migratory European Fishermen, 1500-1800," in Louis Sicking and Darlene Abreu-Ferreira (eds.), Beyond the Catch: Fisheries of the North Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic, 900-1850 (The Hague: Brill, 2008), 123-154. More recently, Pope suggests that innovations in the material culture of ordinary European families appear to have played a critical role in the transition from sixteenth-century seasonal European installations in North America and the flurry of permanent settlements in the early seventeenth century; see “The Consumer Revolution of the Late 16th Century and the European Domestication of North America,” in Peter E. Pope (ed.), with Shannon Lewis-Simpson, Exploring Atlantic Transitions: Archaeologies of Transience and Permanence in New Found Lands (Woodbridge, Suffolk and Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2013), pp. 37-47. Finally, in “The English and the Irish in Newfoundland: Historical Archaeology and the Myth of Illegal Settlement,” in Audrey Horning and Nick Brannon (eds.), Ireland and Britain in the Atlantic World (Dublin: Wordwell Books, 2009), pp. 217-234, Pope makes a compelling case which explains how substantial archaeological evidence compiled in recent decades supports the conclusion that in Newfoundland, a European presence can be detected as far back as the temporary cabins installed by the sixteenth-century migratory fishery, followed by the establishment of a number of permanent communities at various moments in the seventeenth century. Though considerable attention continues to be given to proprietary, corporate, and state colonies such as Ferryland, Cupid’s, and Placentia, the fact is that much of the population growth of the seventeenth-century Newfoundland was a consequence of informal settlement. By 1677, there were close to 2,000 people living on the English Shore alone, with many more in French parts of the island. In short, the notion that settlement was always held to be illegal, or that the fishery was a determined foe of settlement, has been thoroughly discredited, although the power of those myths remains persistent, so that our emerging understanding of Newfoundland’s Early Modern settlement history still seems to come as something of a surprise to many Newfoundlanders today.
Pope brings many of his ideas and arguments on the early settlement of Newfoundland together in Fish Into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004). Here he shows that the proprietary and corporate colonies of the early seventeenth century were more successful than hitherto suspected at establishing permanent settlement in Newfoundland (see below), and that the rate of growth was in fact not significantly worse than it was for other European colonies in the region, such as Acadia. Indeed, it has been argued that if we limit our assessment of settlement just to that coastal strip known as “the English Shore,” then the density of occupation of usable land by the early eighteenth century may in fact have been very high, and quite comparable or even greater than elsewhere in English North America; see Andrew Rolfson, Land Tenure, Landowners, and Servitude on the Early-Eighteenth Century English Shore (M.A. research paper, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2004).
Yet the perception that early settlers lived lives of desperation and hardship, and that Newfoundland was "a wild place largely unsuited for civilised activity," persists. The quotation comes from an article by David N. Collins, "Foe, Friend and Fragility: Evolving Settler Interactions with the Newfoundland Wilderness," which appeared in the British Journal of Canadian Studies XXI: 1 (2008), pp. 35-62. Collins endorses Gillian Cell’s view that the years of colonization efforts between 1610 and the 1630s were "years of disillusionment." Significantly, none of Peter Pope’s publications appear in the list of references used by Collins. This is not to deny (as we shall see below) that settlement in Newfoundland was difficult, only that the traditional perception that colonization was unfruitful must be overturned. Certainly the fragility of indigenous populations, together with the experience of English and French colonists, to which we can also add the difficulties experienced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in diversifying the economy, have collectively fostered a stronger appreciation for limiting factors related to environmental conditions. Yet scholarly interest into the relationship between the human history of Newfoundland and environmental conditions is only now beginning to attract focussed attention. One example of the way in which human habitation has affected the natural environment is a recent study by Joyce Brown Macpherson, “The Vegetational History of St. John’s,” 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. 19-36. However, it is more typically the effect of the natural environment on human habitation and activities in the fishery and trade that attracts the attention of historians.
Another idea that must be overturned is that Humphrey Gilbert was the first to attempt to colonize Newfoundland when he arrived in St. John’s in 1583 and claimed Newfoundland for Queen Elizabeth. This is not so; Gilbert was not attempting to colonize Newfoundland. Gilbert’s plan that year was to stake out claims and territory in mainland North America. By the time he arrived in St. John’s, his original plan had been abandoned and he was struggling to make his way back to England. The stop-over in St. John;s was probably an attempt to salvage something from the attempt, not to mention extorting supplies from the fishermen who were there at the time. An excellent source for all this is David Quinn (ed.), New American World; A Documentary History of North America to 1612. Volume III: Plans for North America. The Roanoke Voyages. New England Ventures (New York: Arno Press, 1979), though it is the fourth volume of this documentary compilation, subtitled Newfoundland – From Fishery to Colony; Northwest Passage Searches, that contains the richest sampling of documentation, including much of that associated with Humphrey Gilbert's voyage of 1583. An earlier collection of documentation edited by David Quinn and published in two volumes by the Hakluyt Society in 1940 is The Voyages and Colonising Enterprises of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, which has since been reprinted (New York: Kraus, 1967). David Quinn also wrote a superb booklet for the Newfoundland Historical Society, Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Newfoundland (St. John's: Newfoundland Historical Society, 1983) which places Gilbert clearly in his English and North Atlantic social context; this essay has been reprinted in a collection of Quinn's writings, Explorers and Colonies: America, 1500-1625 (London & Ronceverte, WV: Hambledon Press, 1990), pp. 207-24. As well, Quinn wrote the essay on Gilbert that appears in the DCB, I: 331-336.
Though it had no immediate significance in terms of advancing the settlement of Newfoundland, the Gilbert voyage, together with Cabot’s discovery nearly a century before, did eventually add weight to an emerging notion of overseas empire and particularly the belief that not only discovery but also effective occupation were critical to subsequent British claims to sovereignty over Newfoundland; see, for instance, Ken MacMillan, “Discourse on History, Geography, and Law: John Dee and the Limits of the British Empire, 1576-80,” Canadian Journal of History XXXVI: 1 (April 2001), 1-25. MacMillan maintains that, on the eve of Humphrey Gilbert’s famous voyage of 1583, Dee helped define the principles by which sovereignty over overseas territories such as Newfoundland would be asserted, and thereby challenging Spanish and Portuguese claims that were still based in part on papal pronouncements. On the other hand, in "Taking Possession and Reading Texts: Establishing the Authority of Overseas Empires," William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., XLIX, No. 2 (April 1992), 183-209, Patricia Seed sees strong similarities between the way in which the Spanish and Portuguese asserted claims to overseas territories and the way in which the English subsequently asserted their own claims. A key element in Seed’s analysis is Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s ceremony in St. John’s harbour. While she incorrectly identifies Gilbert’s presence there as “the first English effort at New World settlement,” her analysis is very useful for the way in which it explores the basis on which Europeans claimed overseas lands not possessed by another Christian monarch. Finally, for insight into the way in which discoveries and claims made in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries could continue to provide the basis for diplomatic assertions of sovereignty in later centuries, see Vera Lee Brown, “Spanish Claims to a Share in the Newfoundland Fisheries in the Eighteenth Century,” Canadian Historical Association Annual Report, 1925, pp. 64-82.
While the earliest efforts to colonize Newfoundland therefore had to wait until the early seventeenth century, it is true that the idea of establishing permanent settlements on the island had been promoted by a number of people who were contemporaries of Humphrey Gilbert, and in some instances even knew him. During the late sixteenth century, a considerable quantity of promotional literature appeared which advocated overseas settlement in a number of places in the New World, including Newfoundland. It would therefore be wise to begin with some readings that provide insight into the motivations and assumptions underpinning overseas European colonization efforts generally, and more specifically, European perceptions of the opportunities that Newfoundland seemed to offer in particular. Begin with Humanism and America: An Intellectual History of English Colonisation, 1500-1625 (London & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003, in which Andrew Fitzmaurice explores the motivations and inspirations behind English expansion and the idea of overseas colonization in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, including Newfoundland. Though he discusses such traditional themes as the motivations of wealth and profit, honour and glory, he also examines the nature of and possibilities for liberty, and the problems of just title. Follow this with David Quinn’s essay, “Newfoundland in the Consciousness of Europe in the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries,” in George M. Story (ed.), Early European Settlement and Exploitation in Atlantic Canada (St. John’s: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1982), pp. 9-30, as well as Mary C. Fuller’s essay, “Images of English Origins in Newfoundland and Roanoke,” in Germaine Warkentin and Carolyn Podruchny (eds.), Decentring the Renaissance: Canada and Europe in Multidisciplinary Perspective, 1500-1700 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), pp. 141-158. We should also understand the way in which Newfoundland’s climatic and physical attributes were perceived. For this, turn to the essay by Karen Ordahl Kupperman, “Fear of Hot Climates in the Anglo-American Colonial Experience,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., XLI: 2 (April 1984), pp. 213-40 (see especially pp. 213-217). While Kupperman does not concentrate specifically on Newfoundland, her discussion is extremely useful in explaining why Europeans were so confident that Newfoundland was a sensible place to colonize.
Expectations that the settlement of Newfoundland would have positive outcomes were also mirrored by similar expectations elsewhere. For a general treatment of overseas colonization efforts at this time, see Carole Shammas, "English Commercial Development and American Colonization 1560-1620," in K.R. Andrews, N.P. Canny, and P.E.H. Hair (eds.), The Westward Enterprise, English Activities in Ireland, the Atlantic and America, 1480-1650 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1979), pp. 151-174. For a narrower focus, take a look at the article by Keith Pluymers entitled “Atlantic Iron: Wood Scarcity and the Political Ecology of Early English Expansion,” in the William and Mary Quarterly 3d ser., LXXIII: 3 (July 2016), pp. 389-426. Pluymers’ focus is on Virginia, not Newfoundland, with particular attention to Virginia’s timber resources and iron-founding potential. Yet promoters of Newfoundland colonization emphasized similar resources and development potential – see the rich documentation compiled by David Quinn in New American World; A Documentary History of North America to 1612. Volume III: Plans for North America. The Roanoke Voyages. New England Ventures and Vol. IV: Newfoundland – From Fishery to Colony; Northwest Passage Searches (New York: Arno Press, 1979). Here, one can find Anthony Parkhurst`s 1578 letter to Richard Haklyut the elder, on the many resources in Newfoundland which should attract English settlement efforts, as well as Edward Hayes`1586 letter to Lord Burghley, outlining plans for English control of Newfoundland through occupation, settlement, and fortification (David Quinn contributed essays on both Parkhurst and Hayes to the first volume of the DCB). Clearly, Newfoundland at the time was seen as having more to offer than just fish.
Newfoundland did not, of course, measure up to the overly optimistic expectations and predictions of early promoters of colonization. The thin soil, short growing season, lack of diversity in local flora and fauna, climatic extremes and other environmental factors would affect early attempts at colonization and limit vigorous settlement growth for well over a century. The survival of the first colonists depended very much on reliable yet not always adequate trans-Atlantic shipments of essential supplies of gear, clothing, and above all food. As Paula Marcoux explains in “Bread and Permanence,” bread was the most essential of common foods of Europeans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, yet it represented not only sustenance but a tangible reminder in their new environments of home. As a result, they went to considerable effort to supply themselves with bread. Her essay appears in Peter E. Pope (ed.), with Shannon Lewis-Simpson, Exploring Atlantic Transitions: Archaeologies of Transience and Permanence in New Found Lands (Woodbridge, Suffolk and Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2013), pp. 48-56.
Yet provisions from home had to be preserved in order to survive the journey without spoiling, and this often meant that the very nourishment on which the colonists depended for survival could also be fatally deficient nutritionally. The persistence of scurvy in the experience of the first colonists was a sobering reminder of the conflict between expectations and the reality of Newfoundland as a venue for successful settlement. J.K. Crellin looks at the problem of scurvy and the the measures used by early colonists to combat it in “Early Settlements in Newfoundland and the Scourge of Scurvy,” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History XVII: 1-2 (2000), pp. 127-136; Crellin develops the theme further in A Social History of Medicines in the Twentieth Century: To Be Taken Three Times a Day (New York and London: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 2004). More recently, Steven R. Pendery and Hannah E.C. Koon apply new kinds of evidence – particularly archaeological evidence – to determine the degree to which vitamin deficiencies in early settlements aggravated other challenges of early colonization; see “Scurvy’s Impact on European Colonization in Northeastern North America,” in Peter E. Pope (ed.), with Shannon Lewis-Simpson, Exploring Atlantic Transitions: Archaeologies of Transience and Permanence in New Found Lands (Woodbridge, Suffolk and Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2013), pp. 57-65.
Colonization Attempts in the Seventeenth Century
The first determined attempt at colonization occurred in 1610 at Cupid's Cove under the leadership of John Guy on behalf of the London and Bristol Company or, more commonly, the Newfoundland Company. Apart from the aforementioned documentary collection edited by Quinn, the best work to date on this enterprise is Gillian Cell (ed.), Newfoundland Discovered: English Attempts at Colonization, 1610-1630 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1982; 2nd series, #180). Cell's "Introduction" is thorough, and revises to some extent the conclusions she drew in her earlier work, English Enterprise at Newfoundland 1577-1660 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969). Should these works not be available, one might consult Cell's essay, "The Cupid's Cove Settlement: A Case Study of the Problems of Colonization," in George M. Story (ed.), Early European Settlement and Exploitation in Atlantic Canada (St. John's: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1982), pp. 97-114. Another of Cell's essays, "The Newfoundland Company: A Study of Subscribers to a Colonizing Venture," The William & Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., XXII(1965): 611-25, places the first attempt to colonize Newfoundland within its English social and economic context. The essay was reprinted in the first edition of J.M. Bumsted (ed.), Canadian History Before Confederation (Georgetown: Irwin-Dorsey, 1972), pp. 43-57. The late Alan F. Williams prepared a full biographical treatment of John Guy, but it was not finished before Williams died. Now, the manuscript has been edited for publication by W. Gordon Handcock and Chesley W. Sanger and published as John Guy of Bristol and Newfoundland: His Life, Times and Legacy (St. John’s, NL: Flanker Press, 2011). The first volume of the DCB also contains useful profiles of John Guy, the pirate Peter Easton, and several of the Cupid's Cove colonists.
What we thought we knew about the Cupids settlement from the historical record has been significantly enhanced since 1995 by the intensive and continuing archaeological work of William Gilbert and his team, supported by the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation. Much of this work is described on-line, though Gilbert’s work has also found its way into more traditional print essays. For example, he was already suggesting as early as 1996 that there was is still much to be learned about this first attempt to establish a colony in Newfoundland; see "Looking for Cupers Cove: Initial Archaeological Survey and Excavations at Cupids, Newfoundland," Avalon Chronicles I (1996): 67-95, together with an update, “Finding Cupers Cove: Archaeology at Cupid’s, Newfoundland until 1696,” Avalon Chronicles VIII (2003), Special Issue, “The English in America 1497-1696,” pp. 117-184. The significance of the archaeological work at Cupids cannot be overstated. This first settlement in Newfoundland had been cited by historians from Prowse to Cell as the outstanding example of a seemingly well-conceived attempt at settlement which quickly failed. The archaeology confirms a different story, for the site was permanently occupied throughout most of the seventeenth century. William Gilbert summarizes what we now know in “`Dwelling there still': Historical Archaeology at Cupids and Changing Perspectives on Early Modern Newfoundland,” in Peter E. Pope (ed.), with Shannon Lewis-Simpson, Exploring Atlantic Transitions: Archaeologies of Transience and Permanence in New Found Lands (Woodbridge, Suffolk and Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2013), pp. 215-223.
Gilbert has also written about Guy's efforts to explore the region and his encounter with the Beothuk Indians; see "Divers Places': The Beothuk Indians and John Guy's Voyage into Trinity Bay in 1612," Newfoundland Studies VI: 2 (Fall 1990): 147-67. To this point, that encounter has interested historians largely because it is one of the earliest, detailed descriptions by Europeans of Newfoundland's indigenous people. Recently, however, Peter Pope has offered the provocative argument that Beothuk pilfering of iron goods from European fishing camps may have served as an inducement for European settlement; see Peter E. Pope, "Scavengers and Caretakers: Beothuk/European Settlement Dynamics in Seventeenth-Century Newfoundland," Newfoundland Studies X: 2 (Fall 1993): 279-293.
Apart from the Cupid's Cove venture, most other English colonization efforts have received uneven treatment. William Vaughan's attempt to establish a colony at Renews is briefly described in Cell's essay on Vaughan in the DCB, I: 654-656 and in her collection of documents, Newfoundland Discovered. More recently, Anne Lake Prescott focuses upon Vaughan’s colonization efforts in order to examine how Newfoundland was perceived by Europeans at this time; see "Relocating Terra Firma: William Vaughan’s Newfoundland," in Germaine Warkentin and Carolyn Podruchny (eds.), Decentring the Renaissance: Canada and Europe in Multidisciplinary Perspective, 1500-1700 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), pp. 125-140. As the editors of this intriguing volume explain in their Introduction, Prescott examines "the mental universe of the English poet and essayist William Vaughan, who, though he probably never visited Newfoundland, was certain he could write with authority about it." Inhabitancy would persist at Renews; this is supported both by the documentary record and increasingly by archaeological work – see, for instance, F.N.L. Poynter (ed.), The Journal of James Yonge (1647-1721) Plymouth Surgeon (Bristol, 1963), as well as Stephen F. Mills, "The House that Yonge Drew? An Example of Seventeenth-Century Vernacular Housing in Renews," Avalon Chronicles I (1996): 43-66. Nevertheless, Vaughan's colonization effort was quickly abandoned, though the experience was not without significance. In a vain attempt to administer and reorganize his colony in 1618, Vaughan appointed Richard Whitbourne, whose essay, "A Discourse and Discovery of New-Found-Land," published in 1620, revised in 1622 and reprinted in both of the document collections which have been edited by Cell and Quinn, has been an important source of information on Newfoundland's fishery and the settlement efforts at this time. Whitbourne's connection with the Renewse settlement continued after Lord Falkland took over the enterprise around 1620. The most thorough discussion of the Renews colony is that provided in Cell's Newfoundland Discovered; Whitbourne and Sir Francis Tanfield (whom Falkland appointed as governor) both appear in essays by Cell in the DCB, I: 668-669 and 632.
The exception to the cursory treatment usually accorded these early colonization efforts is the colony at Ferryland, which was established by George Calvert (later Lord Baltimore) after he purchased a tract of land from William Vaughan. After several years of efforts and considerable investment which was not rewarded with the kind of results Calvert wanted, he gave up on the colony, which was then taken over by David Kirke. Calvert’s role in the history of Ferryland, his subsequent role in setting into motion the founding of Maryland in what is now the United States, together with a fairly rich manuscript legacy, has meant that Calvert has attracted a greater degree of academic attention than almost any other individual associated with the early attempts to colonize Newfoundland. Moreover, the tradition of manuscript research has recently been enhanced by extensive archaeological excavations on the Ferryland site. Peter Pope brought both the historians skills and those of the archaeologist to bear on the Ferryland experience in his award-winning dissertation, The South Avalon Planters, 1630 to 1700: Residence, Labour, Demand and Exchange in Seventeenth-century Newfoundland (PhD thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1992). That dissertation , together with more than a decade’s additional research, would be transformed into Fish Into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), Pope’s definitive monograph on the relationship between English settlement, the fishery, and the exchange of fish for Iberian wine during the seventeenth century. This seminal work not only challenges much of the persistent received wisdom about the early fishery, trade and settlement in Newfoundland but lays it permanently (one hopes!) to rest. The book should become essential reading for every student in early modern Newfoundland history.
For students engaged in research into the Ferryland colony, there is considerable documentary material in print. Much of this material was compiled in Gillian Cell’s Newfoundland Discovered as well as her earlier English Enterprise. To this, we can add "Six Letters from the Early Colony of Avalon" which Peter Pope contributed to Avalon Chronicles I (1996): 1-20. A recent addition to the documentary legacy is "Edward Wynne’s The Brittish India or A Compendious Discourse tending to Advancement (circa 1630-1631)," with an extensive introduction by Barry C. Gaulton and Aaron F. Miller, together with a transcription of Wynne’s essay. Wynne was Calvert’s governor at Ferryland from 1621 to 1625 (a brief biography of Wynne by Gillian Cell appears in the DCB, Vol. I, p. 672), and his essay used that experience to promote overseas English colonization. The document is featured in Newfoundland and Labrador Studies XXIV: 1 (Spring 2009): 111-137.
Insight into the
Calvert family itself is possible through a substantial literature. It is
unlikely that much can be added to what Peter Pope has to say in his
aforementioned book, Fish Into Wine. Still, the MA dissertation by James
Edward Prindeville, The Calvert Family Claims to the Colony of Avalon in
Newfoundland 1623-1754 (MA thesis, Catholic University of America,
Washington DC, 1949), remains useful, though a more modern and comprehensive
study – one that examines the family both before, during and after its
Newfoundland experience – is now available to students in English and
Catholic: The Lords Baltimore in the Seventeenth Century by John D. Krugler
(Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). In “The Lords Baltimore
in Ireland,” James Lyttleton looks at the experience of the Lords Baltimore in
Ireland, and the degree to which this conditioned their experiences in
Newfoundland. The essay appears in Peter E. Pope (ed.), with Shannon
Lewis-Simpson, Exploring Atlantic Transitions: Archaeologies of Transience
and Permanence in New Found Lands (Woodbridge, Suffolk and Rochester, NY:
Boydell Press, 2013), pp. 259-269.
There are as well a
number of essays and articles in print on Calvert’s Ferryland colony. For many
years, the standard overview of the colony was provided by Thomas Coakley in
"George Calvert and Newfoundland: ‘The Sad Face of Winter’," Maryland
Historical Magazine LXXI: 1 (Spring 1976): 1-18. Coakley explained Calvert’s
decision to withdraw from the colony in terms of the difficult environmental
challenge facing the colonists in Newfoundland. Thus, Coakley reinforced the
prevailing view that the colony struggled, a view which Pope and others have
gone far to amend. See for instance “Ferryland’s First Settlers (and a Dog
Story)” by James A. Tuck, which surveys Calvert’s tenure in Ferryland between
1621 and 1629. While Tuck concedes that “weather has traditionally been seen as
the reason for Calvert’s departure..., other factors may have precipitated his
move to the Chesapeake in 1629.” The essay appears in Peter E. Pope (ed.), with
Shannon Lewis-Simpson, Exploring Atlantic Transitions: Archaeologies of
Transience and Permanence in New Found Lands (Woodbridge, Suffolk and
Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2013), pp. 270-277. See also
what conclusions can be drawn from comparative archaeology by looking at Aaron
F. Miller, Avalon and Maryland: A Comparative Historical Archaeology of the
Seventeenth-Century New World Provinces of the Lords Baltimore (1621–1644)
(PhD thesis. Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2013).
Calvert was also quite sympathetic to Roman Catholicism at a time when Catholics in England faced discrimination and growing persecution; Calvert would eventually convert to Catholicism. This has long raised questions whether Calvert was motivated into sponsoring a colony in Newfoundland out of a desire to create a religious haven for Catholics. Coakley makes clear that this was not the case, but the Catholic connection continues to attract interest. Raymond Lahey explores this element in "The Role of Religion in Lord Baltimore's Colonial Enterprise," Maryland Historical Magazine LXXII: 4(Winter 1977): 492-511 as well as in "Avalon: Lord Baltimore's Colony in Newfoundland," in George M. Story (ed.), Early European Settlement and Exploitation in Atlantic Canada (St. John's: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1982), pp. 115-138. However, Lahey recognizes that the evidence is only suggestive and still favours Coakley's conclusion. More recently, Luca Codignola has turned to documents in the Papal Archives in the Vatican to expand upon the connection between the Ferryland colony and Catholicism; his research, based on a selection of documents which he presents in The Coldest Harbour of the Land; Simon Stock and Lord Baltimore's Colony in Newfoundland, 1621-1649 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1988; trans. Anita Weston), does not significantly alter the conclusions of Coakley and Cell.
Although Allan Fraser’s essay on George Calvert in the DCB, I: 162-3 concludes that Calvert had no lasting influence on Newfoundland, this too is an assessment that is being revised thanks to recent historical and archaeological scholarship. The substantial archaeological work undertaken at Ferryland over the past decade to which reference has already been made has led not only to a substantial reassessment in its own right of the history of the colony but has also encouraged renewed interest in the documentary history of the colony. One very tangible benefit of this attention has been the creation of the "Colony of Avalon Foundation" which began publishing Avalon Chronicles, an annual yearbook of scholarly research concerning not only the Ferryland experience but "the early colonial history and archaeology of eastern North America" as well. Thus, the first volume includes not only essays on Ferryland but on Cupid’s Cove and Renews as well (see elsewhere for specific references).
The archaeological work at Ferryland has been directed by Memorial University of Newfoundland's James Tuck, who describes both the archaeology itself and the history of archaeology at Ferryland in "Archaeology at Ferryland, Newfoundland," Newfoundland Studies X: 2(Fall 1993): 294-310, "Archaeology at Ferryland, Newfoundland 1936-1995," Avalon Chronicles I (1996): 21-41, and (co-authored with Barry Gaulton) “The Archaeology of Ferryland, Newfoundland until 1696,” Avalon Chronicles VIII (2003), Special Issue, “The English in America 1497-1696,” pp. 187-224. This work is not yet complete, but already it has provided us with a much richer appreciation of everyday life in seventeenth-century Newfoundland. See for example Lisa M. Hodgetts, "Feast or Famine? Seventeenth-Century English Colonial Diet at Ferryland, Newfoundland," Historical Archaeology XL: 4 (Winter 2006), 125-138. More to the point, all this work confirms that Ferryland, in contrast to past perceptions of early Newfoundland colonization ventures, should not be regarded as a "failure." Together with the archaeological work being done at Cupid’s on John Guy’s settlement, this forces us to rethink our understanding of the history of seventeenth-century Newfoundland.
After Calvert’s departure, David Kirke took Ferryland over and quickly clashed with the seasonal fishermen. Eventually, Kirke was made to return to England to answer charges of interference with the fishery, and this has long provided much ammunition for those who argued that the growth of Newfoundland settlement was impaired by an unremitting hostility between the fishing interests and the settlers. See for example John Moir’s discussion of Kirke’s tenure at Ferryland in his essay on Kirke in the DCB, I: 404-407. While such a conclusion still cannot be ruled out entirely, it is also evident that the real story is much more complicated than that. For instance, due to the work of Tuck, Pope, and others, there has been growing interest in the ability of the Kirke family to thrive in a place in which the Calvert family had invested a great deal and yet, in the end, abandoned. Reinforcing the conclusions Peter Pope reached in his monograph, Barry Gaulton attributes the Kirke success to their ability to modify the Calvert infrastructure at Ferryland and develop a plantation based on merchandising and fishing; see “The Commercial Development of Newfoundland's English Shore: The Kirke Family at Ferryland, 1638-96,” in Peter E. Pope (ed.), with Shannon Lewis-Simpson, Exploring Atlantic Transitions: Archaeologies of Transience and Permanence in New Found Lands (Woodbridge, Suffolk and Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2013), pp. 278-286. It is certainly clear that the findings of the archaeological teams at Ferryland and at Cupid’s, together with the comprehensive reexamination of the manuscript record by Peter Pope in his doctoral dissertation and numerous articles provide a striking demonstration of the way in which the revision of Newfoundland history is both vigorous and persistent.
That revision affects not only the English attempts at colonization in seventeenth-century Newfoundland but also French efforts. An important element in the process of revision is provided by the useful comparisons that can be made between the English experience at colonizing Newfoundland with that of the French. The French colony of Plaisance (Placentia, as it was known to the English), was founded in 1662. For the longest time, the best available work in English on the French colonial experience in Newfoundland was F.B. Briffett, A History of the French in Newfoundland Previous to 1714 (MA thesis, Queen's University, 1927). Then came a number of studies emerging out of Parks Canada research into the structural remains of the colony by John Humphreys, Jean-Pierre Proulx, Frederick J. Thorpe and others. For many years, one of the better overviews of Plaisance was the brief survey by John Humphreys; see Plaisance: Problems of Settlement at this Newfoundland Outpost of New France 1660-1690 (Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, 1970). But Humphreys also endorsed the notion that Plaisance was a colony which struggled against several handicaps, and that its growth was therefore impaired, with the result that the French Crown gave up on Plaisance and turned it over to the British in 1714. In short, historians of Plaisance, like those who studied the English colonies of the first half of the seventeenth century, concluded that the colonization of Newfoundland was not a success.
As evidence of this "failed colony" paradigm, historians pointed to the several censuses compiled by the authorities; these were assembled and published by Fernand-D. Thibodeau as "Recensements de Terreneuve et Plaisance" in Mémoires de la Société Généologique Canadienne-Française X: 3-4 (juillet-octobre 1959), 179-88, XI: 1-2 (janvier-avril 1960), 69-85, XIII: 10 (octobre 1962): 204-8, and XIII: 12 (décembre 1962), 244-55. These seemed to confirm that the French colony suffered from mediocre growth. A "snapshot" of Plaisance in the mid-1690s is also provided by an anonymous and undated document found in the French archives. Caroline Ménard has examined the document and suggests that it was written by Claude-Charles Bacqueville de la Potherie (1663-1736), author of Histoire de l’Amérique septentrionale (Paris, 1722); see "Documents: Un mémoire écrit par Bacqueville de la Potherie?," Newfoundland and Labrador Studies XXI: 2 (Fall 2006), 319-341. The unimpressive performance of the French colony has been blamed on friction between metropolitan fishermen and resident fishermen, while Humphreys blamed the seeming lack of growth on environmental factors which prevented the settlement from developing a more robust and versatile economy, and instead made it dependent on the fisheries.
But was the performance of the French colony of Plaisance truly mediocre? In her PhD dissertation, The Historical Archaeology of a French Fortification in the Colony of Plaisance, the Vieux Fort Site (ChAl-04), Placentia, Newfoundland (PhD thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2012), Amanda Crompton points out that Plaisance "never supported a very large population, but neither did other Newfoundland settlements, nor did other settlements elsewhere in Acadia and Maine," citing Peter Pope’s Fish Into Wine. The permanent population could draw from the seasonal labour force to serve their labour needs, so this also enabled the colony to thrive without a large resident population. Crompton supports her conclusions with reference to work by Nicolas Landry, who offered an analysis of the seemingly weak demographic performance of Plaisance in his article "Peuplement d’une colonie de pLche sous le régime français: Plaisance, 1671-1714," The Northern Mariner / Le Marin du nord XI: 2 (April 2001): 19-37. Crompton also points out that a number of permanent residents had spouses in other parts of the French Atlantic, such as France. "Clearly, the notion of a permanently-resident family was not limited to the presence of the nuclear family living in the colony. Indeed, fishing colonies did not need continual population growth in order to be vital places.... fishing colony populations are smaller than colonies elsewhere" (pp. 82-83). Students should also consult what is sure to become the definitive treatment of the French colony, Plaisance, Terre-Neuve 1650-1713: Une colonie française en Amérique (Sillery, QC: Septentrion, 2008) by Nicolas Landry.
Nevertheless, in one very important respect, Plaisance did not resemble the earlier English attempts at colonization in Newfoundland. Unlike those English colonies, Plaisance was a creation of the government. As Elizabeth Mancke succinctly explains, "Plaisance ... functioned not so much as a colony – the nucleus of a new society – but as a way for the French government to assert administrative control, if not sovereignty, over the highly decentralized and dispersed commercial spaces of the fishery." See Elizabeth Mancke, "Spaces of Power in the Early Modern Northeast," in Stephen J. Hornsby and John G. Reid (eds.), New England and the Maritime Provinces: Connections and Comparisons (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005), pp. 32-49, esp. p. 42; see also Laurier Turgeon, "Colbert et la pêche française à Terre-Neuve," in Roland Mousnier (directeur), Un Nouveau Colbert: Actes du Colloque pour le tricentenaire de la mort de Colbert (Paris: Editions Sedes, 1985), pp. 255-268. This meant that the French Crown invested a great deal of human and financial capital in the colony – the fortifications, the garrison, the administration. The fact that this enormous expenditure did not apparently stimulate substantial growth at Plaisance has been used as further evidence of the "failed colony" paradigm. Frederick J. Thorpe explores this paradox in "Fish, Forts and Finance: The Politics of French Construction at Placentia, 1699-1710," Canadian Historical Association Historical Papers 1971, pp. 52-63, subsequently developing the theme more fully in his doctoral dissertation, The Politics of French Public Construction in the Islands of the Gulf of St. Laurent, 1695-1758 (PhD thesis, University of Ottawa, 1974). See also Roland Plaze, La colonie Royale de Plaisance, 1689-1713: impact du statut de colonie royale sur les structures administratives (MA thesis, Université de Moncton, 1991) as well as essays on the Sieur de La Poippe and Antoine Parat, both of whom served as governors at Plaisance, in the DCB, I: 418-419, 530.
In fairness, it would probably be more accurate to say that the Crown was disappointed with the way in which the colony satisfied – or not – the role it was expected to play in the French mercantile empire of the North Atlantic. It certainly seems reasonable to conclude that the difficulty of finding a prosperous niche within the emerging French Atlantic led merchants at Plaisance to turn to commercial linkages outside that mercantilistic framework. Thus, we know that Plaisance developed trade links with New England – see the biography of David Basset in the DCB, II, pp. 46-47. Basset was a Boston-based trader of Acadian Huguenot origins who engaged in commerce between New England and Plaisance. Amanda Crompton confirms that, while the little French colony might not have been able to rely on supplies delivered by official ships, it could and did develop commercial connections (indeed “a dependence”) on seasonal visits by merchant ships from other parts of the Atlantic world. The archaeological record reflects both the nature and the sources of necessary supplies as well as the social contexts of this colonial-metropolitan trade; see Crompton’s essay, “Of Obligation and Necessity: The Social Contexts of Trade between Permanent Residents and Migratory Traders in Plaisance, Newfoundland (1662-90),” in Peter E. Pope (ed.), with Shannon Lewis-Simpson, Exploring Atlantic Transitions: Archaeologies of Transience and Permanence in New Found Lands (Woodbridge, Suffolk and Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2013), pp. 245-255. Crompton also provides us with a fascinating glimpse into the everyday material world of the French soldiers who were stationed in Plaisance in “‘Deux mains pour la guerre et la terre’: Soldiers in the French Colony of Plaisance, Newfoundland, 1662-1690,” in Scott Jamieson, Anne Pelta, Anne Thareau (eds.), Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Occasional Papers No. 3: The French Presence in Newfoundland and Labrador: Past, Present, and Future (St. John’s: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2015), pp. 159-187.
The other consequence of Plaisance’s role as a Crown colony was visible during the wars fought between France and England during the life of the colony. Interest in the military and naval function of Plaisance can be traced back to Grace Tomkinson, "That Wasp’s Nest, Placentia," Dalhousie Review XIX (1939), 204-214. More recent publications offer a more analytical approach to the strategic function of Plaisance. See for example two essays which appeared n Yves Tremblay (ed.), Canadian Military History Since the Seventeenth Century; Proceedings of the Canadian Military History Conference, Ottawa, 5-9 May 2000 (Ottawa: Directorate of History and Heritage, National Defence, 2001); Frederick J. Thorpe contributed "French Strategic Ideas in the Defence of the Cod Fishery 1663-1713," pp. 41-47, and James Pritchard contributed "Canada and the Defence of Newfoundland During The War of the Spanish Succession, 1702-1713," pp. 49-57. In "‘Le Profit et La Gloire’: The French Navy’s Alliance With Private Enterprise in the Defense of Newfoundland, 1691-1697," Newfoundland Studies XV: 2 (Fall 1999): 161-175, James Pritchard offers not only a fine study of the defence of Plaisance in wartime, but also reveals the degree to which the French state relied on private enterprise rather than its navy to maintain its presence in Newfoundland. Nicolas Landry has turned his attention to Plaisance-based privateering during the war immediately following, with particular attention to its significance to the local economy; see "Portrait des activités de course à Plaisance, Terre-Neuve, 1700-1715," Les Cahiers de la Société historique acadienne XXXIII (1 et 2), 68-87, and "Les activités de course dans un port colonial français: Plaisance, Terre-Neuve, durant la guerre de Succession d’Espagne, 1702-1713," Acadiensis XXXIV: 1 (Autumn 2004): 56-79. Landry also explores the ingredients essential to the success of the merchants of Plaisance in "‘Qu’il sera fait droit à qui il appartiendra’: la société de Lasson-Daccarrette à Plaisance 1700-1715," Newfoundland Studies XVII: 2 (Fall 2001): 220-256. Of course, these articles appeared before Landry’s book, Plaisance, Terre-Neuve 1650-1713: Une colonie française en Amérique (Sillery, QC: Septentrion, 2008) and students are encouraged to turn there first.
Plaisance was not the only place where French fishermen established settlement in Newfoundland. A convenient overview of French settlement in other parts of Newfoundland is presented by Olaf U. Janzen in "The French Presence in Southwestern and Western Newfoundland Before 1815," in André Magord (directeur), Les Franco-Terreneuviens de la péninsule de Port-au-Port: Évolution d’une identité franco-canadienne (Moncton, New Brunswick: Chaire d’études acadiennes, Université de Moncton, 2002), pp. 29-49. Janzen develops the overview in order to provide context for his examination of French settlement in the Port-aux-Basques and Codroy area, a subject that he developed in such earlier publications as “‘Une grande liaison’: French Fishermen from Ile Royale on the Coast of Southwestern Newfoundland, 1714-1766 – A Preliminary Survey,” Newfoundland Studies III: 2 (Fall, 1987): 183-200 and “‘Une petite Republique’ in Southwestern Newfoundland: The Limits of Imperial Authority in a Remote Maritime Environment,” in Research in Maritime History, Vol. 3: People of the Northern Seas (St. John’s, NF: International Maritime Economic History Association, 1992), ed. Lewis Fischer and Walter Minchinton, pp. 1-33, reprinted in Olaf U. Janzen, War and Trade in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland (“Research in Maritime History,” No. 52; St. John’s, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2013), pp. 69-97. The vulnerability of this remote French community in wartime was the focus of another of Janzen’s essays, “Un Petit Dérangement: The Eviction of French Fishermen from Newfoundland in 1755,” in Olaf U. Janzen, War and Trade in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland (“Research in Maritime History,” No. 52; St. John’s, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2013), pp. 119-128.
Before we leave the topic of Plaisance, some words should be said about our understanding of the society of the French fishermen who lived in Newfoundland. For the longest time, we knew very little about the social life of the fisher folk of Plaisance and the adjacent communities during the era of French settlement in Newfoundland. This deficiency is ending, thanks in considerable measure to the efforts of Nicolas Landry, who has used the post-mortem inventories of Plaisance to reveal more about the material culture of the inhabitants of the lower social classes of Plaisance. His findings appeared initially in several essays, including "Transmission du patrimoine dans une colonie de pLche: analyse préliminaire des inventaires après-décès à Plaisance au XVIIIe siècle," in A.J.B. Johnston (ed.), Essays in French Colonial History: Proceedings of the 21st Annual Meeting of The French Colonial Historical Society (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1997), pp. 156-70; and "Culture matérielle et niveaux de richesse chez les pêcheurs de Plaisance et de l’île Royale, 1700-1758," Material History Review 48 (Fall 1998): 101-122. Landry has also endeavoured to look comparatively at working conditions in three separate fishing societies during the French regime, including Plaisance, Île Royale and the Gaspé in "Pêcheurs et entrepreneurs dans le Golfe du Saint-Laurent sous le régime français," Port Acadie: Revue interdisciplinaire en études acadiennes, III (printemps/Spring 2002): 13-42. Nor has Landry neglected the seasonal and migratory labourers in the French fishery; see Nicolas Landry, "Pecheurs-engagés à Terre-Neuve sous le Régime français, 1688-1713," French Colonial History VIII (2007): 1-21.
Others have followed
in Landry’s footsteps. Damien Rouet, for example, has attempted to reconstruct
the society of Plaisance towards the end of the French period of control; see "Territoires,
et colonisation: l’exemple de Plaisance," in Maurice Basque and Jacques-Paul
Couturier (eds.), Les Territoires de l’identité: perspectives acadiennes et
françaises, XVIIe-XXe siècles (Moncton: Université de Moncton, 2005), pp.
191-203. In Religious Life in French Newfoundland to 1714 (MA thesis,
Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1999) Victoria Taylor-Hood examines the
religious life of Plaisance. She suggests that the clergy who served the colony
– the secular clergy during its early years, then the Récollet friars, engaged
not only in missionary work in Plaisance and the surrounding areas but often
found themselves dealing with problems such as conflict with the secular
authorities of the colony, a lack of religious participation by the inhabitants,
insufficient or inconsistent funding, and problems of recruitment within their
own ranks. But again, with the publication of Plaisance, Terre-Neuve
1650-1713: Une colonie française en Amérique
(Sillery, QC: Septentrion, 2008), much of what we now know about Plaisance has
been brought together into a comprehensive single-volume treatment.
Migration and Permanent Settlement
Even if colonization on the island of Newfoundland, whether by corporate, private, or government sponsors, English or French, had mixed results (and the evidence now supports those who argue that Ferryland, possibly Cupers Cove at modern-day Cupid’s, and therefore conceivably at other locations were much more successful than was traditionally believed), this did not preclude permanent settlement there. A resident population did develop on the island during the seventeenth century, and though it remained extremely small (probably no more than 2,000 people) and was constantly changing, it did persist. An excellent survey of the relationship between the migratory fishermen and the emerging residential fisher population is provided by James E. Candow in his essay "Migrants and Residents: The Interplay between European and Domestic Fisheries in Northeast North America, 1502-1854," in David J. Starkey, Jón Th. Thór, Ingo Heidbrink (eds.), A History of the North Atlantic Fisheries, Volume 1: From Early Times to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Bremen: Hauschild for the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum, 2009), pp. 416-452. Yet the most thorough analysis to date of the complex factors that sustained that population yet seemingly constrained its growth is unquestionably that found in the aforementioned book by Peter Pope, Fish Into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004). Pope has also compressed some of his ideas and interpretation into a succinct overview of seventeenth-century Newfoundland inhabitancy in “Outport Economics: Culture and Agriculture in Later Seventeenth-Century Newfoundland,” Newfoundland Studies XIX: 1 (Spring 2003; Special Issue on “The New Early Modern Newfoundland: to 1730"): 153-186. Kenneth Norrie and Rick Szostak provide a comprehensive overview of the transition from an essentially migratory and seasonal labour force through a transitional era in which migrant and permanent fishermen co-exist to the point where the permanent population became the dominant force in the Newfoundland fishery; see “Allocating Property Rights Over Shoreline: Institutional Change in the Newfoundland Inshore Fishery,” Newfoundland Quarterly XX: 2 (Fall 2005): 233-263. Alan G. Macpherson examines the demographic character of Newfoundland in microcosm with a paper that focuses entirely on St. John’s; see “The Demographic History of St. John’s, 1627-2001: An Introductory Essay,” 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. 1-18. But the most provocative analysis to date of settlement in seventeenth-century Newfoundland is surely Robert C.H. Sweeny’s essay, “What Difference Does a Mode Make? A Comparison of Two Seventeenth-Century Colonies: Canada and Newfoundland,” which appeared in The William & Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., LXIII: No. 2 (April 2006): 281-304. This was a special issue of that journal, one devoted to the theme “Class and Early America,” and Sweeny brings a decidedly Marxist perspective to his subject, one that is sure to generate heated debate – for instance, he characterizes seventeenth-century Newfoundland as “the world’s first capitalist society.” In his efforts to develop his case, Sweeny shows more than once that his familiarity with the detail of early modern Newfoundland fisher society is not always solid (he claims at one point that the inshore fishery used dories in the 1600s, centuries before the specialized boat-type of that name was introduced to Newfoundland). While students should not be discouraged from using the essay, they should probably therefore exercise more than the usual degree of caution.
Though the permanent population remained small, it did persist, thanks in part to a number of adaptive strategies adopted by the residents. Inhabitants supplemented their diet and income with fur trapping and sealing, and while such activities never replaced the cod fishery, they were significant, because both were winter activities and they therefore complemented the summer cod fishery rather than compete with it for the time and energy of the inhabitant. Gardening also played a role in supporting population growth. Official reports show that the quantity of “improved” land increased steadily through the century, enhancing the ability of residents to feed themselves. All of these activities are described at greater length later in this “reader’s guide.” One adaptive strategy should, however, be mentioned here, since it had already made its appearance before the seventeenth century ended. This is the practice of “winterhousing,” a strategy in which residents of coastal fishing communities would break up into small family units in the fall and disperse into the woods, to live in simple shacks or tilts until the spring. There they would subsist by hunting, fur trapping, and wood cutting. Winterhousing appears to have been well-established by 1696, according to reports by Father Baudoin, who accompanied d’Iberville’s raiding expedition against the English Shore; see Alan Williams, Father Baudoin's War: D'Iberville's Campaigns in Acadia and Newfoundland 1696, 1697 (St. John's: Department of Geography, 1987). According to anthropologist Philip Smith, winterhousing appears to have been an adaptive strategy developed in Newfoundland, rather than being imported from elsewhere, and was most prevalent in Conception, Trinity, and Bonavista Bays where there were forests that would support the sort of activities described. See “In Winter Quarters,” Newfoundland Studies III: 1(Spring 1987), 1-36, “Transhumant Europeans Overseas: The Newfoundland Case,” Current Anthropology XXVIII: 2 (April 1987), 241-250, “Européens transhumants non pastoraux de la période récente sur la côte atlantique du Canada,” Recherches amérindiennes au Québec XXIII: 4 (Hiver 1993-94), 5-21, and “Transhumance among European settlers in Atlantic Canada," Geographical Journal CLXI: 1 (March 1995), 79-86, all by Philip E.L. Smith. See also David N. Collins, “Foe, Friend and Fragility: Evolving Settler Interactions with the Newfoundland Wilderness,” British Journal of Canadian Studies XXI: 1 (May 2008): 35-62.
Although Pope, Smith, and others have therefore forced us to revise our assumptions
about the nature and success of Newfoundland inhabitancy in the seventeenth
century, this does not dispute the fact that it was only in the third and fourth
decades of the eighteenth century that the residential population began to
experience substantial and persistent growth. This process was largely
dependent on migration from England and Ireland that persisted into the early nineteenth century, after
which population growth was derived almost exclusively from natural increase. A
substantial literature, much of it by historical geographers, has developed to define and to
explain the population growth of Newfoundland. The complementary relationship between the
fishery and the resident population lies at the heart of C. Grant Head's Eighteenth
Century Newfoundland: A Geographer's Perspective (Ottawa: Carleton University Press,
1976). John Mannion takes a much narrower focus in exploring the same theme; in
“Population and Economy: Geographical Perspectives on Newfoundland in 1732,”
Newfoundland & Labrador Studies XXVIII: 2 (Fall 2013): 219-265, he provides
us with a detailed snapshot of residency in Newfoundland in just one year. This
essay really should be basic reading for anyone venturing into a study of
eighteenth-century Newfoundland society, for Mannion very carefully explains why
the statistics compiled annually by the naval commodores must be used with great
care, even as he concedes that, for all their flaws, those statistics are equal,
if not superior, to statistics available for the British Isles or other British
colonies at the time. Another historical geographer, W. Gordon Handcock, narrows
his perspective by focussing on just one community. He demonstrates the
relationship between commercial development in Newfoundland and the growth of
settlement very convincingly in an essay on “The Poole Mercantile Community and the Growth of Trinity 1700-1839,” The
Newfoundland Quarterly LXXX: 3(Winter 1985): 19-30. In “Business Rivalry in
the Colonial Atlantic: A Five Forces Analysis,” an unpublished paper (2013)
which is accessible at the searchable SSRN
eLibrary, Allan Dwyer is even more direct: in their efforts to extend the
cod fishery and their operations into Notre Dame Bay, competing merchants
Benjamin Lester and John Slade used access to credit through the truck system to
encourage settlement by fishing planters; they in turn hired “servants”
(contract or indentured labourers) to prosecute the summer cod fishery and
associated ancillary activities.
In short, scholars today completely reject the old myth which claimed that migratory fishing interests were responsible for discouraging settlement growth. The pioneering work of Keith Matthews, who drew attention to the obvious point that the resident population in Newfoundland originated in the same southwestern region of England in which the British fishery was based or the same southeastern Irish region where the British fishery began increasingly to acquire provisions and recruit labour. A more extensive exposition of Handcock’s analysis is provided in Soe longe as there comes noe women: Origins of English Settlement in Newfoundland (St. John’s: Breakwater Press, 1989), a work which emerged out of Handcock’s Ph.D. thesis, An Historical Geography of the Origins of English Settlement in Newfoundland: A Study of the Migration Process (PhD thesis, University of Birmingham, 1979). Handcock’s conclusions are presented graphically in Plate 26 on “Trinity, 18th Century” in the HAC, I. Finally, Alan G. Macpherson examines the demographic character of Newfoundland in microcosm with a paper that focuses entirely on St. John’s; see “The Demographic History of St. John’s, 1627-2001: An Introductory Essay,” 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. 1-18.
Another seminal work was John Mannion (ed.), The Peopling of Newfoundland: Essays in Historical Geography (St. John's: Institute of Social and Economic Research, 1977), which includes essays by the editor linking merchant trading networks and permanent settlement in western Newfoundland during the nineteenth century ("Settlers and Traders in Western Newfoundland," pp. 234-275), one of W. Gordon Handcock’s earliest published assessments of the relationship between the Westcountry fishery and permanent settlement in Newfoundland (see “English Migration to Newfoundland,” pp. 15-48), an essay by Patricia Thornton which analyses the connection between merchants and settlement in "The Demographic and Mercantile Bases of Initial Permanent Settlement in the Strait of Belle Isle," pp. 152-183, an essay by Chesley Sanger linking "The Evolution of Sealing and the Spread of Permanent Settlement in Northeastern Newfoundland," pp. 136-151, and Alan Macpherson's analysis, "A Modal Sequence in the Peopling of Central Bonavista Bay, 1676-1857," pp. 102-135. In his "Introduction" to this collection, Mannion makes an extremely useful distinction between seasonal, temporary, and permanent migration. Seasonal migrants came to Newfoundland to fish and returned to the British Isles at the end of the season. Temporary migrants came to Newfoundland and remained for a few years, but eventually returned to the British Isles. Permanent migrants came and stayed for the rest of their lives. These distinctions are necessary in avoiding the trap of accepting contemporary population estimates, which were based on the simplistic distinction between migratory and resident fishermen.
Kenneth Norrie and Rick Szostak provide a comprehensive overview of the transition from an essentially migratory and seasonal labour force through a transitional era in which migrant and permanent fishermen co-exist to the point where the permanent population became the dominant force in the Newfoundland fishery; see “Allocating Property Rights Over Shoreline: Institutional Change in the Newfoundland Inshore Fishery,” Newfoundland Quarterly XX: 2 (Fall 2005): 233-263. In “The Biological Collapse of Atlantic Cod off Newfoundland and Labrador: An Exploration of Historical Changes in Exploration, Harvesting Technology, and Management,” Jeffrey Hutchings and the late Ransom Myers utilize a wide array of historical and contemporary materials to reconstruct a detailed history of the Newfoundland cod fishery in an effort to explain the collapse of Northern cod in the late twentieth century. They question whether that collapse can be explained solely in terms of “environmental” changes, suggesting instead that there was already evidence of overfishing as early as the mid-1800s. In short, the impact of European fisheries and European settlement are linked, and must be included in any analysis of catch rates. The article appears in in Ragnar Arnason and Larry Felt (eds.), The North Atlantic Fishery: Strengths, Weaknesses and Challenges (Charlottetown: The Institute for Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island, 1995), pp 37-93. Myers subsequently presented an intriguing and compelling analysis demonstrating a link between settlement and catch rates in “Testing Ecological Models: The Influence of Catch Rates on Settlement of Fishermen in Newfoundland, 1710-1833,” in Poul Holm, Tim D. Smith, David J. Starkey (eds.), The Exploited Seas: New Directions for Marine Environmental History (Research in Maritime History, No. 21; St. John’s, NF: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2002), pp. 13-29. Myers uses Scott Gordon’s bio-economic model for an open access fishery to confirm that fishermen in three bays in Newfoundland tended to settle when catch rates exceeded a particular threshold levels (forty quintals of dried salt cod per man per year).
Yet there was more to the transition to permanent residency than catch rates. In Land Tenure, Landowners, and Servitude on the Early-Eighteenth Century English Shore (M.A. research paper, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2004), Andrew Rolfson examines the nature and significance of land tenure and property rights in shaping settlement growth and class. He suggests that land tenure was a critical factor in restraining population growth, since the ability to support oneself in the fishery depended not simply on the ability to catch fish but to also to cure it, and this required dry ground. Rolfson’s essay is especially useful for the discussion it provides of the social and legal status of servants, particularly the legal and social elements that limited social mobility (including the acquisition of property) in eighteenth-century Newfoundland. Allan Dwyer’s research shows how the credit system known as “truck” played a critical role in making permanent residency in Newfoundland possible. See An economic profile of Fogo Island planters and the Slade merchant company, 1785-1805 (MA thesis, McGill University, 1989), and, more recently, Atlantic Borderland: Natives, Fishers, Planters and Merchants in Notre Dame Bay, 1713-1802 (PhD thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2012). Out of this thesis research emerged an essay on “A Different Kind of Newfoundland: Planter Success in 18th-Century Notre Dame Bay,” Newfoundland Quarterly XCIX: 2 (2006): 38-45. Here, Dwyer examines how the merchant John Slade and his successors made residency possible through the extension of credit through “truck.” This means that students must take care not to dismiss “truck” in the eighteenth century simplistically as a purely and ruthlessly exploitive system; while the relationship between merchants who extended credit and the planter who depended on it was never an equitable one, nevertheless truck made the expansion of the resident population in eighteenth-century Newfoundland possible.
The close relationship which existed between the British fishery in Newfoundland and the development of permanent residency left a powerful imprint on the character of the residential society of eighteenth-century Newfoundland. Take for example the Irish component of that society. Irish migration to Newfoundland was very closely linked to the English Westcountry fishing industry, which began using southeast Ireland as an important provisioning and labour recruiting centre. Nicholas R. Burke provided an early examination of this role in “Some Observations on the Migration of Labourers from the South of Ireland to Newfoundland in Pre-Famine Times," Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society LXXVI (July-December 1971): 95-109. Yet Burke’s discussion, as innovative as it once was, is now a striking example of just how far the study of Newfoundland history has come in the past twenty-five years. An instrumental figure in the revision of our perception of the complexity of Ireland's social and economic connection with Newfoundland has been John Mannion. See, for instance, "The Maritime Trade of Waterford in the Eighteenth Century," in W. Smyth and Kevin Whelan (eds.), Common Ground; Essays on the Historical Geography of Ireland (Cork: Cork University Press, 1988), pp. 208-233; "A Transatlantic Merchant Fishery: Richard Welsh of New Ross and the Sweetmans of Newbawn in Newfoundland 1734-1862," in Kevin Whelan and William Nolan (eds.), Wexford: History and Society. Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1987), pp. 373-421, 543-5, and "The Waterford Merchants and the Irish-Newfoundland Provisions Trade 1770-1820" in Donald Akenson (ed.), Canadian Papers in Rural History, Vol. III (Gananoque: Langdale Press, 1982), pp. 178-203. On the particular theme of Irish migration, Mannion offers "Old World Antecedents, New World Adaptations: Inistioge (Co. Kilkenny) Immigrants in Newfoundland," Newfoundland Studies V: 2(Fall 1989): 103-176. Tom Nemec provides an extremely useful overview of "The Irish Emigration to Newfoundland," in The Newfoundland Quarterly LXIX: 1(1972): 15-19, 22-4 while John Mannion presents a long-overdue assessment of the nature and significance of the first few decades of significant Irish migration to Newfoundland in "Irish Migration and Settlement in Newfoundland: The Formative Phase, 1697-1732," Newfoundland Studies XVII: 2 (Fall 2001): 257-293.
Both Nemec and Mannion complement their assessments of Irish migration view with instructive case studies of eighteenth-century Irish-Newfoundland communities – Nemec looks at "Trepassey, 1505-1840 A.D.: The Emergence of an Anglo-Irish Newfoundland Outport," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXIX: 4 (March 1973): 17-28, with a companion essay, "Trepassey, 1840-1900: An Ethnohistorical Reconstruction of Anglo-Irish Outport Society," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXX: 1 (June 1973): 15-24 that carries the story forward through the nineteenth century; Mannion focuses on the community of Placentia in "Irish Merchants Abroad: The Newfoundland Experience, 1750-1850," Newfoundland Studies II: 2 (Fall 1986): 127-190 and in "A Transatlantic Merchant Fishery: Richard Welsh of New Ross and the Sweetmans of Newbawn in Newfoundland 1734-1862," in Kevin Whelan and William Nolan (eds.), Wexford: History and Society. Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1987), pp. 373-421, 543-5. The activities of one Irish merchant in Newfoundland, including the role played in Irish migration to the island, is detailed in John Mannion, "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. Another of Mannion's essays, "Migration and Upward Mobility; the Meagher Family in Ireland and Newfoundland, 1730-1830," Irish Economic and Social History XV (1988): 54-70, shows that for some, migration provided the opportunity not only for work but also for upward mobility; in the course of developing this analysis, Mannion also succeeds in describing the challenges and stratagems of merchants struggling to succeed within the fishing economy. More recently, Allan Dwyer has examined the other end of the social spectrum in the evolution of an Irish-Newfoundland community in Tilting, Notre Dame Bay; see An economic profile of Fogo Island planters and the Slade merchant company, 1785-1805 (MA thesis, McGill University, 1989), and, more recently, Atlantic Borderland: Natives, Fishers, Planters and Merchants in Notre Dame Bay, 1713-1802 (PhD thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2012). Out of this thesis research emerged an essay on “A Different Kind of Newfoundland: Planter Success in 18th-Century Notre Dame Bay,” Newfoundland Quarterly XCIX: 2 (2006): 38-45. Dwyer explores the role played by the Slades, a merchant family which originate in Poole, England, in the development of a society that was increasingly Irish in origin while also stressing the importance that the truck system played in making settlement in Notre Dame Bay possible.
Notwithstanding Mannion's pioneering work on Irish migration to Newfoundland, much remains unknown about the culture of the Irish who settled in Newfoundland either temporarily or permanently. That there was hostility and tension which occasionally burst into the open is undeniable witness the willingness with which Irish servants supported the French when they captured and briefly held St. Johns and Conception and Trinity Bays in 1762 or the conspiracy in 1800 among Irish soldiers and servants in St. Johns to rise up against the English (both discussed separately in this bibliography in the section dealing with war and military events in Newfoundland). Equally undeniable is the fact that the Irish in Newfoundland suffered legally, socially, and culturally from powerful English prejudices and laws; see John Mannion, "...Notoriously disaffected to the Government...: British allegations of Irish disloyalty in eighteenth-century Newfoundland," Newfoundland Studies XVI: 1 (Spring 2000), 1-29, or, for a study with a narrower focus, Mannions examination of the way in which Newfoundlands links with Ireland served as a vector for revolutionary sentiment, "Transatlantic Disaffection: Wexford and Newfoundland, 1798-1800," Journal of the Wexford Historical Society 17 (1998-1999): 30-60. Not so clear is the source of such prejudices and behaviour. Did they result from anti-Irish feelings, anti-Catholic feelings, or strong class antipathies? Aidan O’Hara, for instance, places much of the blame for the conspiracy among the Irish members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Fencibles in 1800 on the anti-Irish attitudes of their military commander, General John Skerret; see “‘The entire island is United...’: the attempted United Irish rising in Newfoundland, 1800,” History Ireland, VIII: 1 (2000), 18-21; see also the essay on Skerret by G.W.L. Nicholson in the DCB, V, 761-762. The truth, of course, lies in an amalgam of these several prejudices that is much more complicated than many simplistic discussions of Irish-English relations in Newfoundland will admit. Nor, as Keith Mathews points out in his dissertation, is it always recognized that the Irish in Newfoundland were treated no worse, and sometimes better, than their compatriots and co-religionists in Ireland. Nevertheless, while the toleration of Roman Catholicism by 1784 does suggest that prejudices were easing (see below for a discussion of sources relating to Roman Catholicism in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Newfoundland), other evidence suggests that the emerging legal structure in Newfoundland by the end of the eighteenth century simply created new situations which worked against Irish Catholics. In "Collective Violence in Ferryland District, Newfoundland, in 1788," Dalhousie Law Journal XXI: 2 (Fall 1998): 475-489, Christopher English examines the transition from locally-defined definition of law and application of laws to definitions decreed from London. He explores this transition through one incident the trial and sentencing in Ferryland of 114 men found guilty in 1788 of "riotous assembly" and suggests that the rough-and-tumble violence and faction-fighting which had previously been had tolerated among Irish labourers were now singled out and suppressed in district courts by local elites who were anxious thereby to maintain their social position and economic power in the face of the centralizing policies of the imperial state. As Jerry Bannister suggests in The Rule of the Admirals: Law, Custom, and Naval Government in Newfoundland, 1699-1832 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), p. 235, the reaction of Protestant elites was “a by-product of the forces unleashed by the edict of religious toleration in 1784 and the efforts to establish the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland.” What is certain is that students must exercise extreme caution when analysing social tensions in eighteenth-century Newfoundland, and avoid explanations that assign purely class-based, ethnically based, or sectarian explanations to tensions and behaviours.
One unusual and quite atypical Irish migration experience occurred in 1789, when 127 Irish convicts were put ashore at Bay Bulls and Petty Harbour by the captain of the Dublin-owned brig Duke of Leinster. The British authorities had practised convict transportation to North America before the American Revolution and would resume the practice in more infamous fashion late in the 1780s with Australia as the destination. Transportation to Newfoundland was never encouraged by the British government, in part because this would conflict with the island's imperial role as a fishery and "nursery for seamen." Nevertheless, convicts did occasionally appear in the fishery during the early eighteenth century. Then, and in emulation of the British practice of transportation, the Irish government attempted after 1784 to ship convicts off to North America and the Caribbean. The fact that one ship-load ended up in Newfoundland in 1789 was quite unintended, and generated considerable concern and official correspondence both by local authorities and British officials in Newfoundland. This incident has therefore received some attention by historians, first by Frederic F. Thompson in a brief article entitled "Transportation of convicts to Newfoundland, 1789-1793," Newfoundland Quarterly LXIX: 1(1960): 30-1, and later more detailed attention from Ged Martin in "Convict Transportation to Newfoundland in 1789," Acadiensis V: 1 (Autumn 1975): 84-99. Stephen Devereux places the incident within the context of Irish and British politics in "Irish Convict Transportation and the Reach of the State in Late Hanoverian Britain," Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, New Ser. Vol. VIII (St. John's 1997): 61-85. An analysis by Bob Reece places the incident within the context of tensions that affected the Irish Catholic community in Newfoundland at the time the convicts appeared; see "Such a Banditti': Irish Convicts in Newfoundland, 1789, Part I," Newfoundland Studies XIII: 1 (Spring 1997): 1-29; Part II: Newfoundland Studies XIII: 2 (Autumn 1998): 127-141; and the material relating to Newfoundland in Reece's book, The Origins of Irish Convict Transportation to New South Wales (New York: Palgrave, 2001). Reece shows how the unexpected arrival of the convicts in a society which lacked the judicial, social, or administrative machinery to integrate them into the local community society compelled local authorities to act quickly to deport the convicts, not completely with success. However, Jerry Bannister maintains that both Reece and Martin reinforce a number of misconceptions about the government and judiciary in Newfoundland at this time. Framing his analysis in terms of the broader legal historiography, Bannister maintains in "Convict Transportation and the Colonial State in Newfoundland, 1789," Acadiensis XXVII: 2 (Spring 1998): 95-123, that the way in which the local authorities coped with the sudden appearance of the convicts indicates that a system of local governance had emerged in Newfoundland by 1789 that was quite capable of meeting this challenge.
Ironically, while the arrival of the Irish convicts in 1789 was something of an aberration in the general history of immigration to Newfoundland, the event is quite well documented, and for this reason, it has attracted scholarly attention. Not nearly as much is known about out-migration from Newfoundland during the eighteenth century, especially to New England, though there were persistent complaints by eighteenth-century officials – see DCB, II (1701-1740) essays about Thomas Kempthorne (he served as commodore in 1715), and William Arnold (master of a New England trading sloop accused of illegally transporting fishermen to New England). As a result, historians from Prowse to Lounsbury assumed that the flow was substantial. Daniel Vickers includes some material on late seventeenth and early eighteenth century migration from Newfoundland to New England in his article on "Work and Life on the Fishing Periphery of Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1675," in David Grayson Allen and David D. Hall (eds.), Seventeenth-Century New England (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1984), pp. 83-117, as well as in his more detailed and thorough treatment of labour in colonial New England, Farmers & Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1850 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994). Andrew Rolfson also discusses the movement of servants from Newfoundland to the mainland North American colonies in Land Tenure, Landowners, and Servitude on the Early-Eighteenth Century English Shore (M.A. research paper, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2004). As well, such migration has been discussed within the more general context of Newfoundland's links with New England; see Susan E. Squires, "Newfoundland to the Boston States: Seasonal Cross-Border Migration," in Borderlands Project Steering Committee (Robert Lecker, Co-ordinating editor), Borderlands: Essays in Canadian-American Relations (Toronto: ECW Press, 1991), pp. 127-145. However, users of this article should be extremely careful in their use of the general background provided by Squires, for she accepts uncritically many of the hoary myths of Newfoundland history, including the "fishery/settler animosity" myth, and seems unaware of the degree to which merchants are now recognized as vital factors in the establishment of a settled population on the island.
In demonstrating that the development of a commercial network in Newfoundland during the eighteenth century was an essential ingredient in the development and growth of a permanent, residential population, the work of Handcock, Mannion, Head, Matthews, and others has overturned the traditional perception of merchants as unrelenting foes of settlement. It has also influenced subsequent research on settlement in Newfoundland. Thus, Allan Dwyer has explored the sometimes complicated relationship that existed between planters and merchants, first in his Master’s thesis, An Economic Profile of Fogo Island Planters and the Slade Merchant Company, 1785-1805 (MA thesis, McGill University, 1989), and later, with a broader timeframe, in his doctoral dissertation, Atlantic Borderland: Natives, Fishers, Planters and Merchants in Notre Dame Bay, 1713-1802 (PhD thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2012). Students can access Dwyer's interpretation through his paper, “A Different Kind of Newfoundland: Planter Success in 18th-Century Notre Dame Bay,” Newfoundland Quarterly XCIX: 2 (2006): 38-45. Dwyer also uses the opportunity of his analysis of a letter written by their agents in St. John’s to the firm of John Slade and Sons in 1799 to discuss British expansion into the Notre Dame Bay region during the early eighteenth century, when that territory was still defined as "French Shore." See "Research Note: Fogo Island and the French in Italy: A Letter from the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World," Newfoundland and Labrador Studies XXI: 2 (Fall 2006), 309-318
In a very different part of Newfoundland, Olaf Janzen also emphasizes the
role played by merchants – this time merchants of St. Malo, France –
establishing and maintaining Franco-Irish settlements in southwestern Newfoundland in
"`Une Grande Liaison': French Fishermen from Ile Royale on the Coast of Southwestern
Newfound land, 1714-1766 A Preliminary Survey," Newfoundland Studies
III: 2(Fall 1987): 183-200 and in "`Bretons...sans scrupule': The Family Chenu of
St. Malo and the Illicit Trade in Cod During the Middle of the 18th Century," in
Patricia Galloway and Philip Boucher (eds.), Proceedings of the Fifteenth Meeting of
the French Colonial Historical Society Martinique and Guadeloupe, May 1989 (Lanham,
MD: University Press of America, 1992), pp. 189-200; a revised version of this paper
later appeared in the International Journal of Maritime History VIII: 1 (June 1996), pp.
1-22 under the title "The Illicit Trade in English Cod into Spain, 1739-1748."
Two more essays unite the metropolitan and Newfoundland foci of these earlier
essays, and carry the story of the settlements of southwestern Newfoundland
forward into the 1750s and 1760s; see Olaf Janzen, “‘Une petite Republique’ in
Southwestern Newfoundland: The Limits of Imperial Authority in a Remote Maritime
Environment,” in People of the Northern Seas ("Research in Maritime
History," No. 3; St. John's, NF: International Maritime Economic History
Association, 1992), ed. Lewis R. Fischer and Walter Minchinton, pp. 1-33, and
“Un Petit Dérangement: The Eviction of French Fishermen from Newfoundland in
1755.” This last essay appears in Olaf U. Janzen, War and Trade in
Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland (“Research in Maritime History,” No. 52;
St. John’s, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2013), pp.
119-128, together with reprints of the first two essays, “Illicit Trade” (pp.
99-118) and “Une petite republique” (pp. 69-97).
Yet year-round residency also required innovative measures by the inhabitants themselves if they were to survive, especially through the long and difficult winter. Though our attention on year-round survival is understandably focussed on Newfoundland’s rich abundance of marine resources, Rainer Baehre reminds us that the timber resources of its forests played a sufficiently important role in Newfoundland history that customs and regulations quickly defined how those forests could – and could not – be used and abused; see "Whose Pine-Clad Hills: Forest Rights and Access in Newfoundland and Labrador’s History," Newfoundland Quarterly CIII: 4 (Spring 2011): 42-47. David Collins surveys the way in which the island interior of Newfoundland went through several changes in the perceptions of the early European inhabitants – from unrealistic expectations of agricultural abundance, to ominous threat from natives and Europeans alike, to a source of essential shelter and resources during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as people began to turn to the interior in winter for survival; see "Foe, Friend and Fragility: Evolving Settler Interactions with the Newfoundland Wilderness," British Journal of Canadian Studies XXI: 1 (May 2008): 35-62. Anthropologist Philip E.L. Smith has given the practice of "winter-housing" – in which residents of coastal villages fragmented into family units and dispersed into the interior to subsist on hunting and trapping during the winter – particular attention. While the practice closely resembled the subsistence pattern of the Beothuk Indians, Smith argues convincingly that it was not borrowed but was instead independently invented by Newfoundland settlers in response to the harsh environmental conditions they found there as well as in response to the peculiar social and political conditions that prevailed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. See "In Winter Quarters," Newfoundland Studies III: 1 (Spring 1987): 1-36, "Transhumant Europeans Overseas: The Newfoundland Case," Current Anthropology XXVIII: 2 (April 1987): 241-50, and, most recently, "Transhumance among European settlers in Atlantic Canada," Geographical Journal CLXI: 1 (March 1995): 79-86. This is not to deny that some elements of native material culture were transferred to European settlers. Melvin Firestone describes "Inuit Derived Culture Traits in Northern Newfoundland" in an article in Arctic Anthropology XXIX: 1 (1992): 112-128. Though the article focuses largely on the twentieth century, the opening pages include an extremely comprehensive and accurate survey of Inuit-European relations in the Straits of Belle Isle region that extends back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The commercial harvesting of new resources also had a profound and immediate effect on permanent demographic patterns, according to Chesley Sanger in "The Evolution of Sealing and the Spread of Permanent Settlement in Northeastern Newfoundland," in J. Mannion (ed.), The Peopling of Newfoundland, pp. 136-151; this article emerged out of research for Sangers Masters dissertation, Technological and Spatial Adaptation in the Newfoundland Seal Fishery During the 19th Century (MA thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1973). A brief overview of the history of the seal fishery, from its earliest origins to its development into an activity of great commercial and social significance, is provided in James K. Hiller, "The Newfoundland Seal Fishery: An Historical Introduction," Bulletin of Canadian Studies VII: 2 (Winter 1983/84): 49-72, though a much more comprehensive study is Shannon Ryan's The Ice Hunters: A History of Newfoundland Sealing to 1914 (St. John's: Breakwater, 1994). Curiously, opportunistic sealing may have been more critical in supporting the initial stages of permanent settlement on the north-east coast rather than later, more established phases of the settlement process; see Allan Dwyer's two dissertations (previously mentioned) as well as his paper, “A Different Kind of Newfoundland: Planter Success in 18th-Century Notre Dame Bay,” Newfoundland Quarterly XCIX: 2 (2006): 38-45. The salmon fishery was another activity that drew residents beyond the traditional settlement areas even as it provided them with another resource to exploit. For a study of one pioneer in the salmon fishery, see Hans Rollmann, "`Thy Real Friend George Skeffington:' Quaker and Salmon Fishing Pioneer in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland," The Journal of the Friends' Historical Society LVII: 1 (1994): 13- 20, as well as Carson Ritchie's brief treatment of Skeffington in David Hayne (gen. ed.), Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. II: 1701 to 1740 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969), p. 609.
Other developments which broadened the resource basis on which population growth could rest are more prosaic. Grant Head hints at a connection between the appearance of the potato in Newfoundland in the middle of the eighteenth century and the growth thereafter of a permanent population, in his Eighteenth Century Newfoundland: A Geographer's Perspective (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1976). It is an intriguing possibility – there seems little doubt that for many decades before 1730, the permanent population on the island of Newfoundland remained fairly consistently at a level of roughly 1,000 to 2,000 people, and that then, around the same time that Head believes the potato made its appearance, the population began to expand rapidly and persistently. Was there a “cause and effect”? It is highly unlikely that the persistent growth of permanent population in Newfoundland can be attributed to a single factor such as the appearance of the potato. And until some serious research is undertaken, any connection between population growth and the introduction of the potato to Newfoundland must remain speculative – intriguing, yes, but speculative.
In any case, most crops grown in Newfoundland during
the eighteenth century were part of a household subsistence economy; commercial
agriculture developed late and only under special circumstances, according to
Robert A. MacKinnon; see his MA dissertation, The Growth of Commercial
Agriculture Around St. John's, 1800-1935: A Study of Local Trade in Response to
Urban Demand (MA thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1981), from
which he later drew two articles: “Farming the Rock: The Evolution of Commercial
Agriculture around St. John's, Newfoundland, to 1945,” Acadiensis XX: 2
(Spring 1991): 32-61; and “The Agricultural Fringe of St. John’s, 1750-1945,” 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. 53-81. In “The Staple Model
Reconsidered: The Case of Agricultural Policy in Northeast Newfoundland,
1785-1855,” Acadiensis XXI: 2 (Spring 1992): 48-71, Sean Cadigan puts to
rest the old myth that government and the
merchant community were opposed to agricultural development, but he shows that the
politicization of agricultural development by early nineteenth century reformers, together
with the desire of colonial administrators to reduce public dependence on relief whenever
the fishery failed, created unreasonable expectations about the island's agricultural
potential. In his essay on "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 analyses the particular efforts,
ultimately unsuccessful, of one merchant to promote agricultural development and
settlement in the early nineteenth century. Mannion also describes the career of one Irish
farmer in Newfoundland,
John O'Brien, in the
DCB, VIII: 658-660. In the
meantime, so long as the island population exceeded the island’s ability to feed
itself, Newfoundland continued to depend on importations of food stuffs. While
those imports continued to come from Great Britain, a growing quantity of
food-stuffs came from other parts of North America, both that part of
Anglo-America which became the United States and the mainland British colonies
that eventually became part of Canada. The American trade has received some
attention from Grant Head, Gordon Handcock, Keith Matthews and others. The trade
with nearby British colonies has been given much less attention, and is one of
those neglected areas that awaits scholarly study. For instance, Corey Slumkoski
hints at the importance of the trade in agricultural produce between Prince
Edward Island and Newfoundland in the early nineteenth century in an article
that is otherwise focused firmly on the twentieth century; see “The Prince
Edward Island - Newfoundland Beef-Cattle Trade, 1942-1946,” Acadiensis
XXXV: 2 (Spring 2006): 106-126.
The Emergence of a Newfoundland Society
Despite the growing interest in the social history of early Newfoundland, one group has consistently been ignored to the point where they remain almost entirely invisible. The history of women has simply not been given any attention until very recently. Peter Pope gives the topic some discussion in his Fish Into Wine, while Gordon Handcock acknowledges the crucial role played by women in transforming Newfoundland from a seasonal migration of men to a permanent society in Soe longe as there comes noe women: Origins of English Settlement in Newfoundland (St. John’s: Breakwater Press, 1989). Yet Handcock is frustratingly elusive in explaining when and how the female population grew to significant levels. There is growing evidence that the onset of significant Irish migration to Newfoundland may have played an important role in introducing significant numbers of single women to Newfoundland; see for instance the references to Irish female immigration in John Mannion, “Irish Migration and Settlement in Newfoundland: The Formative Phase, 1697-1732,” Newfoundland Studies XVII: 2 (Fall 2001): 257-293. Mannion also touches on the theme in portions of his essay, “Population and Economy: Geographical Perspectives on Newfoundland in 1732,” Newfoundland & Labrador Studies XXVIII: 2 (Fall 2013): 219-265. Even so, the size of the female population as a proportion of the total was quite small during the eighteenth century – perhaps 13 percent of the total in 1750, and barely double that by the end of that century.
All this has a bearing, not only on the economic role of women, but on their legal and social status as well. One of the first assessments of the legal status of women in Newfoundland was “A Woman’s Lot: Women and Law in Newfoundland from Early Settlement to the Twentieth Century” by Linda Cullum and Maeve Baird, with assistance from Cynthia Penney, in Pursuing Equality: Historical Perspectives on Women in Newfoundland and Labrador (St. John's: ISER, 1993), ed. Linda Kealey, pp. 66-162. Yet theirs is a very broad treatment of its subject, covering the eighteenth century to the present, and the attention given to the earlier period can be very elusive of detail.
This is now beginning to change. A very important contribution to the history of women in eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century Newfoundland is The Slender Thread: Irish Women on the Southern Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, 1750-1860 by Willeen Gertrude Keough (New York: Columbia University Press), which is based on Keough’s doctoral dissertation, The slender thread: Irish women on the southern Avalon, 1750-1860 (PhD thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2001); perhaps more importantly, the book is also available as part of the Gutenberg-e project free of charge as an open access work at http://www.gutenberg-e.org/keough/index.html. Keough uses a broad range of sources – official correspondence, court transcripts, oral history – to shed light on the migration of Irish women to Newfoundland, their reception and status, the way in which they shaped local society, and contributed to the emergence of a vigorous residential population. Though her study extends over more than a century, her analysis is particularly rich for the periods of greatest Irish migration to Newfoundland, 1811-16 and 1825-33. Keough’s dissertation has not only generated a book but also a number of article-length papers which explore some of the themes that are developed by the larger works. See for example "The Riddle of Peggy Mountain: Regulation of Irish Women’s Sexuality on the Southern Avalon, 1750-1860," Acadiensis XXXI: 2 (Spring 2002): 38-70; "‘...Now You Vagabond [W]hore I Have You’: Plebian Women, Assault Cases, and Gender and Class Relations on the Southern Avalon, 1750-1860," in Christopher English (ed.), Essays in the History of Canadian Law, Vol. 9. Two Islands: Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island (Toronto: University of Toronto Press for The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2005), pp. 237-271; and “Unpacking the Discursive Irish Woman Immigrant in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Newfoundland,” Irish Studies Review, XXI: 1 (2013): 55-70. Through the lens of the experience of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Irish women in Newfoundland, Keough explores a number of questions relating to the status and condition of women, particularly those of the working classes.
Two other studies that examine attitudes toward, and conditions of, women in the eighteenth century and the way this affected the administration of justice are Andrew Rolfson’s Land Tenure, Landowners, and Servitude on the Early-Eighteenth Century English Shore (M.A. research paper, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2004) and Sean Cadigan’s "Whipping them into Shape: State Refinement of Patriarchy among Conception Bay Fishing Families, 1787-1825," in C. McGrath, B. Neis, and M. Porter (eds.), Their Lives and Times: Women in Newfoundland and Labrador: A Collage (St. John's: Killick Press, 1995), pp. 48-59. Jerry Bannister suggests convincingly that women in eighteenth-century Newfoundland, as in Georgian England, were more likely to be granted mercy by the legal system than men because how seriously offenders were treated by the courts depended on the perceived seriousness of their offence and the character of the offender, and women were perceived as posing a less serious threat than men; see Bannister, The Rule of the Admirals: Law, Custom, and Naval Government in Newfoundland, 1699-1832 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), esp. "Women and Criminal Justice," pp. 200-204. In “Women in the Courts of Placentia District, 1757-1823,” Krista L. Simon uses nearly 600 court cases to explore the legal and social status of women in one region of Newfoundland; the essay appears in Christopher English (ed.), Essays in the History of Canadian Law, Vol. 9. Two Islands: Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island (Toronto: University of Toronto Press for The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2005), pp. 272-299
Other promising indications of what is possible include a paper by Trudi Johnson which examines the tension between the needs of an emerging settled population and British legal structures and preferences; see “‘A Matter of Custom and Convenience’: Marriage Law in Nineteenth-Century Newfoundland,” Newfoundland Studies XIX: 2 (June 2003): 282-296.Johnson later explored women’s inheritance and property rights in “Defining Property for Inheritance: The Chattels Real Estate Act of 1834,” in Christopher English (ed.), Essays in the History of Canadian Law, Vol. 9. Two Islands: Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island (Toronto: University of Toronto Press for The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2005), pp. 192-216. These publications all offer encouraging proof that the available sources still have a great deal to tell us about the history of women in early modern Newfoundland. Nevertheless, much work needs to be done before women's history within this region can catch up to the progress made in other regions of pre-Confederation Canada.
Before we move on to Newfoundland’s transition to a predominantly residential population, there is one other group of people who were present in Newfoundland, though not necessarily by choice, and certainly not in great numbers. In fact, very little is known about the numbers of blacks who were here as slaves, either in the areas of British settlement or in the French communities before 1713. Yet Africans made up a huge proportion of the migrants who came to North America from the early 1600s onwards – admittedly as involuntary and forced labour – and it should come as no surprise that some were recorded in Newfoundland. What is surprising is how very little attention has been given to them. Only one essay touches upon the presence of enslaved Africans in Newfoundland – this is a brief research note by Heather MacLeod-Leslie on “Archaeology and Atlantic Canada’s African Diaspora” which appeared in Acadiensis XLIII: 1 (Winter/Spring 2014): 137-145; see especially p. 144. Those blacks who do appear in the documentary record seem to have been here as personal servants rather than as labourers in the fisheries. Nevertheless, more work should be done on their presence here, if only because there were other reasons for their being here than we generally appreciate – as chattel belonging to merchants residing in Newfoundland, or as a consequence of the emerging fish trade with the West Indies, or as part of the Atlantic realm’s maritime seafaring labour force – see for example W. Jeffrey Bolster, Black Jacks: African-American Seamen in the Age of Sail (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998) as well as Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2000) – or simply as transients who occasionally found themselves brought ashore because so much shipping to and from the West Indies made its way off these coasts.
Returning to our main theme, the proportion of permanent residents to temporary or seasonal ones grew steadily until finally, during the American Revolutionary War, the residential population permanently exceeded the non-residential one. There has been considerable interest in characterizing the society that emerged with this growth. Wilfred Kerr's description of "Newfoundland in the Period Before the American Revolution," in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History & Biography LXV (January 1941): 56-78, provided the platform on which was based an explanation for the failure of the residential population to be moved by the passions aroused by the American Revolution. That explanation no longer stands the test of close scrutiny, for Newfoundland simply lacked the homogeneity and unity that would have made a coherent and conscious response of any kind by its residential population possible. Contemporary impressions of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Newfoundland, such as appear in Peter Neary and Patrick O'Flaherty (eds.), By Great Waters: A Newfoundland and Labrador Anthology (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), Peter Pope, "A True and Faithful Account: Newfoundland in 1680," Newfoundland Studies XII: 1+2 (Spring and Fall 1996), pp. 32-49, Rene Wicks, "Newfoundland Social Life: 1750-1850," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXX: 4 (Fall 1974): 17-23, A.M. Lysaght (ed.), Joseph Banks in Newfoundland and Labrador, 1766; His Diary, Manuscripts and Collections (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1971), and Jean Murray (ed.), The Newfoundland Journal of Aaron Thomas 1794 (Don Mills: Longmans, 1968), all make very clear that the population lacked the means, let alone the sense, of cohesion or homogeneity of expression. Only as the eighteenth century drew to a close did this change, a process which Shannon Ryan examines in "Fishery to Colony: A Newfoundland Watershed, 1793-1815," Acadiensis XII: 2(Spring 1983): 34-52 and which has been reprinted 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. 130-148, 138-156 and 177-195 respectively).
By the time the wars of 1793-1815 drew to a close, the migratory fishery was rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Yet the disappearance of seasonal labour did not bring an end to the migration of people – particularly the Irish – to Newfoundland. The end of the artificial prosperity of wartime and the return of peacetime competition was both sudden and traumatic; see James Flynn, "The effects of the War of 1812 on the Newfoundland economy, with an additional comment on post-war depression," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXVII (Summer/Fall 1981): 67-72 as well Ryan’s aforementioned article, "Fishery to Colony." As a result, the massive flow of immigrants that characterized the final years of war suddenly fell off dramatically. But immigration did not end completely, and in fact would experience one more surge in 1825-1833, when changes in British regulations governing trans-Atlantic migration, combined with the seeming recovery of the fishing economy in the decades after 1816, created conditions that revitalized the flow of people from Ireland to Newfoundland. Conditions for migrants during these times could be deplorable, for the profits to be made by transporting people across the Atlantic were substantial, and attracted both the srcupulous and the unscrupulous. See Willeen Gertrude Keough, The Slender Thread: Irish Women on the Southern Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, 1750-1860 (New York: Columbia University Press), also available on-line at http://www.gutenberg-e.org/keough/index.html, especially Chapter 2. Cyril Byrne wrote briefly about two cases – one in 1811, another in 1825 – of migrants being victimized by the passenger trade; see "The Case of the Schooner Fanny from Waterford to St. John’s, 1811," An Nasc: the newsletter of the D'Arcy McGee Chair of Irish Studies, Saint Mary's University III: 1 (Spring/Summer 1990): 19-22; and "The Brig Thomas Farrell," An Nasc: the newsletter of the D'Arcy McGee Chair of Irish Studies, Saint Mary's University IV: 1 (Winter 1991): 6-7.
Ironically, significant migration to Newfoundland from the British Isles came to an end just as the "Great Migration" to British North America began. By the late 1830s, patterns of population distribution in Newfoundland had therefore become fixed, and growth thereafter was derived largely through natural increase. Yet these patterns remained strongly influenced by the traditional merchant fishery, as John Mannion and W. Gordon Handcock explain in Plate 8, "Origins of the Newfoundland Population, 1836," in HAC, II. Within the communities themselves, certain social characteristics had become well-established by then. In two essays by Tom Nemec on "Trepassey, 1505-1840 A.D.: The Emergence of an Anglo-Irish Newfoundland Outport" and "Trepassey, 1840-1900: An Ethnohistorical Reconstruction of Anglo-Irish Outport Society," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXIX: 4 (March 1973): 17-28 and LXX: 1 (June 1973): 15-24, as well as in W. Gordon Handcock's study of "The Poole Mercantile Community and the Growth of Trinity 1700-1839," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXX: 3 (Winter 1985): 19-30, the same conclusion is reached: class differences rather than economic or religious differences were the major bases of social divisions within each community. Even in Ferryland, where Christopher English does believe that religion played a part in feeding social tensions, the fundamental conflict was more one of class; see his "Collective Violence in Ferryland District, Newfoundland, in 1788" in the Dalhousie Law Journal XXI: 2 (Fall 1998): 475-489.
Fundamental to any understanding of such differences within local societies is an understanding of the "truck system," through which merchants from the eighteenth century onwards controlled labour through a system of wage payment in supplies. An excellent explanation of the truck system appears in various portions of Rosemary Ommer, From Outpost to Outport: A Structural Analysis of the Jersey - Gaspé Cod Fishery, 1767-1886 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991), though the complexities of the debate surrounding the truck system are better appreciated by reading the essays appearing in Rosemary Ommer (ed., Merchant Credit & Labour Strategies in Historical Perspective (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1990). The essays include: J.K. Hiller, "The Newfoundland Credit System: an Interpretation," pp. 86-101, Robert M. Lewis, "The Survival of the Planters' Fishery in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Newfoundland," pp. 102-113, and David A. Macdonald, "They Cannot Pay Us in Money: Newman and Company and the Supplying System in the Newfoundland Fishery, 1850-1884," pp. 114-128, which first appeared in Acadiensis XIX: 1(Autumn 1989): 142-55. Possibly the most useful essay on the theme did not appear in Merchant Credit & Labour at all, but instead was a review of the collection by Stuart Pierson in Newfoundland Studies VIII: 1(Spring 1992): 90-108. Pierson's essay is a thoughtful discourse on the ambivalency with which merchants, credit, "truck," etc. are increasingly perceived.
The problem was that it was extremely difficult not to believe that the truck system was completely exploitive and prone to abuse. British officials therefore became convinced that this contributed to the transformation of the fishery from a seasonal to a residential activity; see John E. Crowley, "Empire versus Truck: The Official Interpretation of Debt and Labour in the Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland Fishery," Canadian Historical Review, LXX: 3 (September 1989): 311-36. One perceived abuse was the degree to which rum from the West Indies was used as a cheap substitute for the payment of wages, a problem that predated even the truck system. Yet according to Peter Pope, the role alcohol played within the fishery and trade was not nearly so clear-cut. Instead, alcohol had two aspects, representing a "culturally useful good" to the labouring consumer and "an economically efficient return for fish" to the supplying merchant; see Peter Pope, "Historical Archaeology and the Demand for Alcohol in 17th Century Newfoundland," Acadiensis XIX: 1(Autumn 1989): 72-90, as well as his "Fish into Wine: The Historical Anthropology of Demand for Alcohol in Seventeenth-Century Newfoundland," Histoire Sociale/Social History XXVII: 54 (November 1994): 261-278, two papers which were subsequently integrated into Pope’s socioeconomic history of seventeenth-century Newfoundland, Fish Into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
That truck could be a positive and constructive element in the early history of Newfoundland has been demonstrated by Allan Dwyer in his Master’s thesis, An Economic Profile of Fogo Island Planters and the Slade Merchant Company, 1785-1805 (MA thesis, McGill University, 1989), and, more recently, Atlantic Borderland: Natives, Fishers, Planters and Merchants in Notre Dame Bay, 1713-1802 (PhD thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2012), as well as in “A Different Kind of Newfoundland: Planter Success in 18th-Century Notre Dame Bay,” Newfoundland Quarterly XCIX: 2 (2006): 38-45. Joshua Tavenor contributes to the debate with a research note that briefly defines the nature of the commodities that the fishermen and residents of Newfoundland consumed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; see "Imports to Newfoundland in the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries," Newfoundland and Labrador Studies XXVI: 1 (Spring 2011): 75-85.
Nevertheless, truck was increasingly perceived as a negative and exploitive relationship, and by the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, efforts were being made to overturn it, though Sean Cadigan maintains that the development of a wages and lien system in the early-nineteenth century had less to do with such efforts than with structural changes within the fishing society itself; see "Seamen, Fishermen and the Law: The Role of the Wages and Lien System in the Decline of Wage Labour in the Newfoundland Fishery," in Colin Howell and Richard Twomey (eds.), Jack Tar in History: Essays in the History of Maritime Life and Labour (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1991), pp. 105-31. That article has since been incorporated by Cadigan into his much fuller treatment of the truck system, Hope and Deception in Conception Bay: Merchant- Settler Relations in Newfoundland, 1785-1855 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995).
Clearly, there is no longer any excuse for students to indulge in the stereotype of the grasping, greedy, and destructively exploitive robber barons; this image has been firmly rejected. Yet it is equally clear that a consensus has not yet replaced that image. There is, for instance, still a tendency to perceive the merchants as responsible for Newfoundland's lack of economic diversification. And it is true that, since they were not permanent residents of Newfoundland before the nineteenth century, the profits generated by the fishery never remained in Newfoundland but flowed instead to the British Isles where the wealth was used to support an ostentatious way of life and political ambitions. It is a point made quite graphically in the well illustrated book by Derek Beamish, John Hillier, and H.F.V. Johnstone, Mansions & Merchants of Poole & Dorset, Volume I (Poole: Poole Historical Trust, 1976). The consequences to the economic development, or underdevelopment, of Newfoundland are also the focus of an essay by James F. Shepherd, "Staples and Eighteenth-Century Canadian Development: The Case of Newfoundland," in Roger L. Ransom, Richard Sutch, and Gary M. Walton (eds.), Explorations in the New Economic History: Essays in Honor of Douglass C. North (London: Academic Press, 1982), pp. 97-124. Yet in Hope and Deception in Conception Bay: Merchant-Settler Relations in Newfoundland, 1785-1855 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), Sean Cadigan denies that the merchants obstructed diversification and seeks to explain the failure of capital to accumulate in Newfoundland in environmental conditions and in the complex and inescapable characteristics of the truck system.
The division of the resident population of Newfoundland into equal proportions of English Protestants and Irish Roman Catholics, together with the role that religious organizations have played in alleviating the more extreme social conditions on the island, have resulted in considerable interest in the religious history of Newfoundland. The Royal Navy, whose duty it was to patrol, monitor, and protect the fishery since roughly the middle of the seventeenth century, was also responsible for providing early residents with access to spiritual support through the chaplains who often served on naval ships. Almost the only source on this usually unrecognized role that the navy played is Waldo E.L. Smith, The Navy and Its Chaplains in the Days of Sail (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1961), pp. 160-189: "The Navy as Moral Guardian: Newfoundland." The impressions of a cleric visiting Newfoundland in 1680 have been published, with a fine introductory essay and annotations by Peter Pope, as "A True and Faithful Account: Newfoundland in 1680," in Newfoundland Studies XII: 1+2 (Spring and Fall 1996), pp. 32-49. The activities of John Jackson, a chaplain who arrived at St. John's with the military early in the eighteenth century, are described in the DCB (II: 293-294). With the exception of sporadic visits to Newfoundland by clergymen and preachers during the seventeenth century, the first concerted effort to provide Newfoundland with religious service was by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the missionary arm of the Church of England. Ruth M. Christensen surveyed the work of the SPG during this period in "The Establishment of S.P.G. Missions in Newfoundland, 1703- 1783," Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church XX (1951): 207-229. An excellent impression of the challenges that SPG missionaries faced in Newfoundland is provided by several biographical essays in the DCB on Henry Jones (III: 315-316), Robert Kilpatrick (III: 327), Edward Langman (IV: 437-438) and James Balfour (V: 52-53).
There is also a growing and welcome body of scholarly research on Methodism in Newfoundland. For many years, much of the available literature was uncritical and denominationally biased – works like Arthur Kewley, "The First Fifty Years of Methodism in Newfoundland: 1765-1815," Canadian Church Historical Society Journal XIX: 1-2 (March-June 1977): 6-26, and Naboth Winsor, Hearts Strangely Warmed; A History of Methodism in Newfoundland 1765-1925, Volume One: The Beginning and Firm Establishment 1765-1824 (Gander: B.S.C. Printers, 1982), had to be consulted with great care because of their antiquarian approach. Students seeking a more analytical assessment of early Methodist preachers were limited to brief essays in the DCB like that on Laurence Coughlan in vol. IV. An MA dissertation by Jacob Parsons on The Origin and Growth of Newfoundland Methodism, 1765-1855 (MA thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1964) was a start, but is now showing its age. Fortunately we now have Shouting, Embracing, and Dancing with Ecstasy: The Growth of Methodism in Newfoundland, 1774-1874 by Calvin Hollett (Kingston & Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010); this is based on Hollett’s PhD thesis (Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2008), A People Reaching for Ecstasy: The Growth of Methodism in Newfoundland, 1774-1874.
On the role of Dissenters in early Newfoundland society, one should consult James S. Armour, Religious Dissent in St. John's, 1775-1815 (MA thesis, MUN, 1989). Hans Rollmann has also published research into the early appearance of Congregationalists and other Dissenters; see, for instance, his "John Jones, James O'Donel, and the Question of Religious Tolerance in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland: A Correspondence," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXX: 1 (Summer 1984): 23-27, and his essays on "Puritans" and "Quakers" in the fourth volume of the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador [hereafter cited as ENL] (St. John's: Harry Cuff, 1992). An essay on John Jones by Frederic Thompson also appears in the DCB, IV: 401-402.
The most comprehensive introduction to the study of Roman Catholicism in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Newfoundland is "Catholicism and Colonial Policy in Newfoundland, 1779-1845" by Raymond J. Lahey, in Terrence Murphy and Gerald Stortz (eds.), Creed and Culture: The Place of English-Speaking Catholics in Canadian Society, 1750-1930 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1993), pp. 49-78. While the survey is somewhat traditional and should therefore be used with caution, it manages to cover the social, constitutional and cultural themes both thoroughly and accurately. More recently, Luca Codignola has examined the response of Roman Catholicism throughout the North Atlantic to the political and intellectual trends that saw an intensification of conservatism during a revolutionary age, and therefore provided a broader "Atlantic" context for the local developments that occurred in Newfoundland towards the end of the eighteenth century; see Luca Codignola, "Roman Catholic Conservatism in a New North Atlantic World, 1760-1829," William & Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, LXIV: 4 (October 2007), pp. 717-756. By reading Codignola’s essay, students will possibly be better prepared to examine one of the most significant developments in the history of Roman Catholicism in Newfoundland, namely the granting of official religious tolerance in 1784, a development which opened the door to the subsequent establishment of an organized Catholic Church on the island. Hans Rollmann has written several extremely useful essays on this process, including "Richard Edwards, John Campbell, and the Proclamation of Religious Liberty in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXX: 2(Fall 1984): 4-12 and "Religious Enfranchisement and Roman Catholics in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland," in C. Byrne & T. Murphy (eds.), Religion and Identity: The Experience of Irish and Scottish Catholics in Atlantic Canada (St. John's: Jesperson Press, 1987), pp. 34-52. Rollmann has also edited and published on-line (http://www.mun.ca/rels/ang/texts/instruct.html) the "Religious Instructions to Governors of Newfoundland: 1729-1786."
The first priest to arrive in Newfoundland following the proclamation of official tolerance of Roman Catholicism was James Louis O'Donnell, whose life has been described in Philip O'Connell, "Dr. James Louis O'Donnell (1737- 1811), first Bishop of Newfoundland," Irish Ecclesiastical Record CIII(1965): 308-324 as well as in the DCB, vol. V: 631-634 and in a Newfoundland Historical Society booklet by Raymond Lahey, James Louis O'Donel in Newfoundland 1784-1807 (St. John's: Newfoundland Historical Society, 1984). Lahey also contributed an essay to the DCB, vol. V, pp. 122-3 on Edmund Burke, who arrived at Placentia in 1785 to serve as the first parish priest there. The open challenge to Burke's presence at Placentia from Prince William Henry, captain of HMS Pegasus, in 1786, and the Prince's subsequent friction with James Louis O'Donel in St. John's, showed how uncertain the footing was of the Catholic clergy in Newfoundland at this time. That footing was further complicated by tensions within and between the Catholic clergy at this time, as Vincent McNally explains in “A Question of Class? Relations Between Bishops and Lay Leaders in Ireland and Newfoundland 1783-1807,” Canadian Catholic Historical Association Historical Studies LXIV (1998), 71-90. The tension between the laity of St. John’s, who were long accustomed to providing the local Catholic community with leadership, and the Catholic clergy who increasingly insisted on being the ‘official’ voice of Newfoundland Catholicism, is also examined by Terrence Murphy in “Trusteeism in Atlantic Canada: The Struggle for Leadership among the Irish Catholics of Halifax, St. John’s, and Saint John, 1780-1850,” in Terrence Murphy and Gerald Stortz (eds.), Creed and Culture: The Place of English-Speaking Catholics in Canadian Society, 1750-1930 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993), pp. 126-151. Cyril Byrne has edited a valuable collection of letters by early leaders of Newfoundland's Roman Catholic Church, Gentlemen-Bishops and Faction Fighters: The Letters of Bishops O Donel, Lambert, Scallan and Other Irish Missionaries (St. John's: Jesperson Press, 1984), to which Hans Rollmann has responded with "Gentlemen-Bishops and Faction-Fighters: additional letters pertaining to Newfoundland Catholicism, from the Franciscan Library at Killiney (Ireland)," Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society XXX: 1(April 1988): 3-19.
By the first half of the nineteenth century, religion had become a key ingredient in the public affairs of the emerging society of Newfoundland. Generally the focus of study has been on the interplay of religion and politics during this period; a full discussion of this theme appears later within the context of nineteenth-century Newfoundland society. It should perhaps be noted here, however, that religion could also be a powerful force in creating new communities, albeit "with a careful eye to the fishery and its mercantile organization." See Calvin Hollett, "The Founding of Harbour Buffett, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, 1836-1846: A Popular Initiative in Religion and Education," Newfoundland and Labrador Studies XXIV: 2 (Fall 2009): 199-217.
The Emergence of a Political and Legal Infrastructure
The development of a permanent and growing residential population in Newfoundland also brought with it the need for local institutions of law and government. So long as Newfoundland remained principally and primarily a European commercial activity on the far side of the Atlantic, the institutions that provided some degree of order and consistency were devised by the fishing industry itself. The system of the “fishing admirals,” whereby those who arrived first in a particular harbour assumed responsibility for settling disputes among fishermen, probably pre-dates the English fishery, though most of the existing literature examines only the English experience, and tends to focus on the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when the fishing admirals were subjected to growing criticism by seasonal naval officers, who felt they were not competent. This perception filtered into official perceptions of the fishery and helped shape the gradual definition of policies, though care should be taken by students in assigning too much meaning into this; "perceptions" were shaped by many things, not the least by political loyalties that often had little to do with the fisheries. See for instance what Alan Cass has to say about the factors that shaped the formulation of King William’s Act of 1699, in his article "Mr. Nisbet’s Legacy, or the Passing of King William’s Act in 1699," Newfoundland and Labrador Studies XXII: 2 (Fall 2007), 505-543. Yet because such perceptions shaped official thinking, they have frequently been embraced by historians and have only recently been challenged. Jerry Bannister, for instance, argues that the role of the fishing admirals in – and contribution to – the administration of Newfoundland requires a much more careful assessment of a very incomplete and always biassed official record. See his articles, “The Fishing Admirals in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland,” Newfoundland Studies XVII: 2 (Fall 2001): 166-219, and “The Naval State in Newfoundland, 1749-1791" in Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, New Series, No. 11 (2000), 17-50, as well as his recent book, The Rule of the Admirals: Law, Custom, and Naval Government in Newfoundland, 1699-1832 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003).
As Newfoundland society became more permanent and more complex, the need grew more acute for a system of governance more appropriate to a settled society than what the fishing admirals could provide. Yet this need contradicted government's preference for a seasonal fishery whose legal needs could be served when the fishermen returned to England, and whose minimal administrative needs in Newfoundland could then be provided by the fishery itself. This need also contradicted the wishes of the merchants who objected to all innovations that might lead to the imposition of regulations on what was otherwise a "free fishery." Keith Matthews argues in his Lectures on the History of Newfoundland 1500-1800 (St. John's: Breakwater Press, 1988) that this fear of government regulation was what caused merchants to object to settlement, even though they encouraged permanent settlement in Newfoundland through their activities there.
Despite both government and commercial resistance to the introduction of local government, the burgeoning population made some administrative measures necessary. Indeed, at one point the residents of St. John's attempted to establish a political and judicial framework themselves, justifying their actions with reference to the writings of John Locke; the attempt is examined by Jeff Webb in "Leaving the State of Nature: A Locke-Inspired Political Community in St. John's, Newfoundland, 1723," Acadiensis XXI: 1 (Autumn 1991): 156-165. That experiment did not lead immediately to any permanent system of administration or jurisprudence, but before the decade ended, various government-sanctioned ad hoc measures began to make their appearance, of which the most significant was the decision in 1729 to assign civil authority with the rank of "governor" to the naval officer commanding the warships sent out each year to patrol and protect the English fishery at Newfoundland. The naval governors powers were carefully defined and limited, yet the need for the application of more extensive powers was such that very soon, a number of ad hoc administrative innovations provided Newfoundland with a rudimentary system of jurisprudence and civil authority.
This process lacked the sanction of parliamentary legislation, so that the conventional view has long been that the system lacked legality; see, for instance, the entries in the ENL on "Government" (Vol. II) and "Judicature" (Vol. III), accounts that should be used very carefully because of their extremely traditional interpretation. It is a view which has undergone substantial revision of late. For instance, in three recent articles, Christopher English has re-visited the evolution of Newfoundland's legal and administrative framework during the eighteenth century: see "The Development of the Newfoundland Legal System to 1815," Acadiensis XX: 1 (Autumn 1990): 89-119; "Newfoundlands early laws and legal institutions: from fishing admirals to the Supreme Court of Judicature in 1791-92," Manitoba Law Journal XXIII (January 1996), pp. 57-78; and "From Fishery Schooner to Colony: The Legal Development of Newfoundland, 1791-1832," in Louis A. Knafla and Susan W.S. Binnie (eds.), Law, Society, and the State: Essays in Modern Legal History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), pp. 73-98. Patrick O'Flaherty presents a very detailed account of government and politics in his monograph, Old Newfoundland: A History to 1843 (St. Johns: Long Beach Press, 1999), although students should exercise some caution in using this work, which one reviewer described as "opinionated, provocative, and idiosyncratic ... with a markedly nationalist slant."
Perhaps more to the point, there still remains a tendency in some of the recent literature to assume that an effective state did not emerge in Newfoundland until the end of the eighteenth century. For instance, in "The Official Mind and Popular Protest in a Revolutionary Era: The Case of Newfoundland, 1789-1819" in F. Murray Greenwood and Barry Wright (eds.), Canadian State Trials, Volume I: Law, Politics, and Security Measures, 1608-1837 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press for The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 1996), pp. 296-322, Christopher English argues that Newfoundlands unusual administrative and constitutional status caused Newfoundlands legal experience during the turbulent years of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars to differ from that of other parts of the British North Atlantic empire. As English bluntly puts it in the conclusion to that article (p. 317), "Sedition and riot as tools against the state can only be employed when a state is in place." In The Rule of the Admirals: Law, Custom, and Naval Government in Newfoundland, 1699-1832 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), which is based on his doctoral dissertation, The Custom of the Country: Justice and the Colonial State in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland (PhD thesis, University of Toronto, 1999), Jerry Bannister takes issue with this approach, arguing that the island’s naval administration needs to be better understood. He maintains that the system of naval administration was both effective and legitimate, that while the system of naval government meant that Newfoundland did not fit easily into traditional historians' simplistic dichotomies defined by colonies with representative government and those without, the law in Newfoundland nevertheless evolved "according to the needs of those in power." For those who lack the time to read Bannister's book, try his article on "Law and Labor in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland" in Douglas Hay and Paul Craven (eds.), Masters, Servants, and Magistrates in Britain and the Empire, 1562-1955 (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), pp. 153-174. Another useful article which springs from the pen of Jerry Bannister – and very usefully looks at the way in which one magistrate (Benjamin Lester) administered justice in an eighteenth-century town (Trinity) – is “‘I shall show it to the governor’: Law and Authority in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland.” The essay is published in Christopher Curran and Melvin Baker (eds.), The Face of Justice on Newfoundland's Northeast Coast (St. John's, NL: Law Society of Newfoundland, 2012).
Incidentally, one consequence of Bannister’s re-examination in The Rule of the Admirals of the system of naval governance that developed in eighteenth-century Newfoundland is to give new importance to the role of Capt. George Rodney in that process. Rodney served as station commodore and governor of Newfoundland from 1749 until 1751. Bannister argues that Rodney significantly reformed the system of judicial administration, placing it on “a far more structured footing than ever before.” Before Bannister, most of the attention cast by historians on individual naval governors has focussed on Capt. Hugh Palliser, who served in the 1760s. Ironically, a new published collection of Rodney’s papers which includes his Newfoundland years provides very little insight into the man’s administrative innovation and almost no understanding for the nature of eighteenth-century Newfoundland or its fishery and trade; see David Syrett (ed.), The Rodney Papers: Volume I, 1742-1763: Selections from the Correspondence of Admiral Lord Rodney (NRS Vol. 148; Aldershot, Hants. & Burlington, VT: Ashgate for the Navy Records Society, 2005).
Eventually, the continuing growth and complexity of the population and society of Newfoundland caused the system of naval administration to gave way to a more formal and imperially directed legal system towards the end of the eighteenth century. An important figure in that process was John Reeves, Newfoundlands first Chief Justice. The best essay on Reeves had long been the article in the DCB (VI: 636-637). Recently, however, there appeared an article by Mark W. Bailey on "John Reeves, Esq. Newfoundlands First Chief Justice: English Law and Politics in the Eighteenth Century," Newfoundland Studies XIV: 1 (Spring 1998): 28-49; Bailey places Reeves and his measures firmly within the context of eighteenth-century British legal and political culture, even as he also provides a useful survey of legal developments generally, and Reeves opinions and actions in particular, in eighteenth-century Newfoundland. In "Collective Violence in Ferryland District, Newfoundland, in 1788" which appeared in the Dalhousie Law Journal XXI: 2 (Fall 1998): 475-489, Chris English uses the trial and sentencing in Ferryland of 114 men found guilty in 1788 of "riotous assembly" to analyse and illustrate the transition from locally-defined definition of law and application of laws to definitions decreed from London. Still another essay by Chris English, "From Fishery Schooner to Colony: The Legal Development of Newfoundland, 1791-1832," in Louis A. Knafla and Susan W.S. Binnie (eds.), Law, Society, and the State: Essays in Modern Legal History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), pp. 73-98, is especially thorough in its treatment of the early nineteenth century, and should be considered by anyone venturing into the legal and constitutional context of early Newfoundland colonial society. A particularly intriguing view of eighteenth-century jurisprudence is presented by Jerry Bannister in "Surgeons and Criminal Justice in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland," a paper which appeared 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. Noting that surgeons "were a fixture of the eighteenth-century fishery" and that their education and training gave surgeons both a professional respectability and an unique training in forensic skills that the courts would find useful, Bannister explores the role of surgeons in criminal trials in Newfoundland before 1792. Bannister’s article has since been reprinted in Christopher English (ed.), Essays in the History of Canadian Law, Vol. 9. Two Islands: Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island (Toronto: University of Toronto Press for The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2005), pp. 79-114. In “Law Reports from a Non-Colony and a Penal Colony: The Australian Manuscripts Decisions of Sir Francis Forbes as Chief Justice of Newfoundland,” Dalhousie Law Journal XIX: 2 (Fall 1996): 417-424, Bruce Kercher reports on the existence and contents of a manuscript copy of a selection of judgments by Sir Francis Forbes while he was Chief Justice of Newfoundland from 1817 to 1822 but which ended up in the State Library of New South Wales in Australia, where Forbes began serving as Chief Justice in 1823. These manuscript reports provide insight into the early legal history of Newfoundland as it developed into a British colony. Another essay co-authored by Kercher with Jodie Young, “Formal and Informal Law in Two New Lands: Land Law in Newfoundland and New South Wales under Francis Forbes,” shows how the judiciary was prepared to address the question of property law in Newfoundland within the context of local customs and practices, in considerable measure because King William’s Act of 1699 provided the necessary legislative basis to exercise some latitude – an argument also used by Andrew Rolfson (see below, next paragraph). This article appears in the collection edited by Christopher English, Essays in the History of Canadian Law, Vol. 9. Two Islands: Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island (Toronto: University of Toronto Press for The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2005), pp. 147-191. In “Peter W. Carter vs Richard Noble: Patronage and Position in Early Nineteenth Century Newfoundland,” Newfoundland Quarterly CVIII: 1 (Summer 2015), 48-54, Christopher L. Penney examines a dispute which arose in 1819 over control of patronage appointments; Noble as Naval Officer for Newfoundland tried to replace Carter as Deputy Naval Officer at St. John’s. Did he have the authority to do this or not? Both relied on political connections in England to advance their respective positions. Clearly the shift from naval administration to civil administration was not always a smooth one, as civil and naval administrators wrestled with the complex system of jurisprudence which had evolved during the century before Newfoundland was granted full colonial status in 1824.
Another intriguing exploration into the history of the system of jurisprudence of Newfoundland and Labrador by Nina Jane Goudie offers an analysis of the way in which justice was administered in the Northern District (between Cape St. Francis and Cape Norman) early in the nineteenth century, including a breakdown of the kinds of cases that came before the bench. See “The Supreme Court on Circuit: Northern District, Newfoundland, 1826-33,” in Christopher English (ed.), Essays in the History of Canadian Law, Vol. 9. Two Islands: Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island (Toronto: University of Toronto Press for The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2005), pp. 115-143. Goudie also authored Down North on the Labrador Circuit: The Court of Civil Jurisdiction 1826 to 1833 (St. John’s: Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2005). As is too often the case with Labrador history, our understanding of the way legal systems evolved there has been very slow to develop. This booklet is an important step in the direction of correcting this neglect.
Many of the aforementioned developments pertaining to British policy towards Newfoundland and to the growth of a Newfoundland legal and constitutional structure can be traced through W.L. Grant & James Munro (eds.), Acts of the Privy Council of England. Colonial Series (6 vols.; London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1908-1912). Another collection of documents which is extremely useful for the seventeenth and eighteenth century is Great Britain; Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, In the Matter of the Boundary Between the Dominion of Canada and the Colony of Newfoundland in the Labrador Peninsula (12 vols.; London: W. Clowes, 1926-1927). The first Parliamentary statute concerning Newfoundland was 10 and 11 William III, cap. 25, usually identified as "King William's Act." In A History of Newfoundland and Labrador (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1980), Fred Rowe identifies this as "the constitution of Newfoundland" for more than a century." (115). This perception is reaffirmed by Patrick O'Flaherty in his very detailed discussion of the Act; see "King William's Act (1699): Some thought 300 years later" in The Newfoundland Quarterly XCIII: 2 (Winter 2000): 21-28. O'Flaherty insists that the long-term effects of the measure were "profound." Yet, as Alan Cass takes considerable pains to show, the Act of 1699 was a trade measure, not a measure to provide the fishery with some sort of system of administration; see Alan Cass, "Mr. Nisbet’s Legacy, or the Passing of King William’s Act in 1699," Newfoundland and Labrador Studies XXII: 2 (Fall 2007), 505-543. Nor was the Act of 1699 the product of a single parliamentary vision, and certainly not a coherent West Country fisheries vision. Cass shows that between its inception and its passage, the Act went through some striking modifications. To understand the Act, he concludes, you must understand what was going on in the Houses of Parliament, not what was necessarily going on in Newfoundland or the home ports of the West Country merchants.
Care must also be taken in assigning to the Act too much influence on Newfoundland's social and economic future; comparisons with the French colony of Plaisance, which experienced painfully slow growth despite determined support by the French crown, remind us that lack of more vigorous growth in Newfoundland during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries cannot always be blamed on government policies. Rolfson’s research essay, Land Tenure, Landowners, and Servitude on the Early-Eighteenth Century English Shore (M.A. research paper, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2004), also takes issue with traditional interpretation of the Act of 1699, arguing convincingly that the measure did not preclude property rights or settlement but instead attempted to reconcile customary practices developed within the fishery and traditions of land ownership rooted in English law and practice.
As a result, Newfoundland by the middle of the eighteenth century had begun to acquire a rudimentary administrative and judicial framework. Many of the governors of Newfoundland, from the inception of the system of naval governors with Henry Osborne (IV: 594-595) in 1729 through to the introduction of civilian administrations under Governor Thomas Cochrane (X: 178-180) in 1825, are given entries in the DCB, vols. II-X. These entries are invaluable if only because few governors have received significant scholarly attention. Yet some who are now recognized as having had great significance in the evolution of administrative measures in Newfoundland are not covered at all – George Brydges Rodney, for example, whose importance has been recognized by Jerry Bannister (see above) has no essay in the DCB. Others have been given much more attention, of whom possibly the most noteworthy is Hugh Palliser (governor from 1764 to 1768), largely because he is associated with Palliser's Act (1775), one of Parliament’s infrequent attempts to legislate administrative order in the fishery, and for his efforts to assert and extend British authority in regions recently acquired (such as Labrador) or previously ignored (such as Western Newfoundland); he is often identified as a key figure in the definition of British policy towards Newfoundland. See for example W.L. Morton, “A Note on Palliser's Act,” Canadian Historical Review XXXIV: 1(March 1953): 33-45. The most thorough treatment of Palliser is provided in several essays by William Whiteley, including "Governor Hugh Palliser and the Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery, 1764-1768," Canadian Historical Review L: 2 (June 1969): 141-63, "James Cook, Hugh Palliser, and the Newfoundland Fisheries," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXIX: 2 (October 1972): 17-22, and Whiteley's biographical essay on Palliser in the DCB, Vol. IV. See also Olaf Janzen, "Showing the Flag: Hugh Palliser in Western Newfoundland, 1764," The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du Nord III: 3 (July 1993): 3-14 and Olaf Janzen, "The Royal Navy and the Interdiction of Aboriginal Migration to Newfoundland, 1763-1766," International Journal of Naval History VII: 2 (August 2008) [e-journal: <http://www.ijnhonline.org/volume7_number2_aug08/ article_janzen_aug08.htm>]. Both of Janzen’s essay have been reprinted in Olaf U. Janzen, War and Trade in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland (“Research in Maritime History,” No. 52; St. John’s, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2013), pp. 155-171 and 173-192. One of the more tangible legacies of Palliser’s efforts to assert a British presence on the Labrador coast was York Fort, a blockhouse established in Chateau Harbour in 1766 and manned by marines from the Newfoundland station ships. Marianne Stopp examines the brief life of York Fort (its detachment was withdrawn in 1775) in a research note entitled “Chateau Bay, Labrador, and William Richardson’s 1769 Sketch of York Fort” in Newfoundland & Labrador Studies XXIX: 2 (Fall 2014): 244-271.
William Whiteley extended his work on British policy during the Palliser era in two articles on "Newfoundland, Quebec, and the Administration of the Coast of Labrador, 1774-1783," Acadiensis VI: 1 (Autumn 1976): 92-112 and "Newfoundland, Quebec and the Labrador Merchants, 1783-1809," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXIII (December 1977): 18-26. A useful corrective to the impression that Palliser dominated the process of defining British policy is given in John E. Crowley, "Empire versus Truck: The Official Interpretation of Debt and Labour in the Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland Fishery," Canadian Historical Review LXX: 3 (September 1989): 311-336 and, more recently, Jeff A. Webb, “William Knox and the 18th-Century Newfoundland Fishery,” Acadiensis XLIV: 1 (Winter/Spring 2015): 112-122.
This process of defining policy was particularly energetic after the American Revolution, and generated a body of testimony that was recently edited and reprinted in an extremely useful collection; see Sheila Lambert (ed.), House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century, Vol. 90, George III (Newfoundland, 1792-93) (Wilmington, Delaware: S.R. Scholarly Resources, 1975). These documents reveal the degree to which British authorities persisted in treating Newfoundland as a fishing station rather than accepting the degree to which a permanent, and increasingly diverse, resident population was rendering such thinking obsolete. That perception has long been associated with the words of William Knox in his testimony to a House of Commons committee; he described Newfoundland as “a great English ship moored near the fishing banks during the season.” Knox was an imperial official who had already played an influential role in the development of Palliser’s Act in 1775, and he continued for decades to speak as something of an”expert witness” in matters relating to Newfoundland and the fisheries. Yet as Jeff Webb points out, Knox was also heavily invested in the fishery after 1788, so that his opinions were personal ones, and not necessarily a reflection of imperial policy; see Jeff A. Webb, “William Knox and the 18th-Century Newfoundland Fishery,” Acadiensis XLIV: 1 (Winter/Spring 2015): 112-122.
The American Revolutionary, French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars eventually contributed to a substantial diversification of Newfoundland society, particularly in the largest centres such as St. John’s; see for example Sean Cadigan, “Artisans in a Merchant Town: St. John's, Newfoundland, 1775-1816,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, New Ser., No. 4 (Ottawa, 1993), pp. 95-119. Nevertheless, Cadigan suggests that Newfoundland’s commitment to a monostaple economy meant that the more successful and prosperous artisans shifted their capital into mercantile activity rather than into manufacture as was more typical elsewhere in the colonial world.
Eventually the growing complexity and permanence of Newfoundland society meant that new approaches had to be developed for to the administration of Newfoundland, ones more suited to a settled society with a burgeoning residential population rather than an economic activity, a trade. This process can be traced through essays in the DCB on such figures as Richard Hutchings (V: 443-444), Aaron Graham (V: 361-362), John Reeves (VI: 636-637), and Governor Mark Milbanke (V: 595-596). Gradually, there emerged a sentiment for administrative and political change, a sentiment that is generally, though not always accurately, defined as a "reform" sentiment. Men like William Carson and Patrick Morris were long credited with achieving representative government for Newfoundland, and both have understandably been given substantial essays in the DCB. Keith Matthews wrote an influential essay on the reformers – "The Class of '32: St. John's Reformers on the Eve of Representative Government," Acadiensis VI: 2 (Spring 1977): 80-94 - which has since been reprinted in P. Buckner and D. Frank (eds)., Acadiensis Reader: Atlantic Canada Before Confederation (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1985), I: 212-26. Matthews argued that the reformers tended to be newcomers to the island who brought the reform impulse with them from the British Isles, and that prior to their appearance, reform initiative tended to come from "above," from colonial administrators rather than from "below." Patrick O’Flaherty takes issue with this interpretation in his essay, "The Seeds of Reform: Newfoundland, 1800-18," Journal of Canadian Studies XXIII: 3 (Fall 1988): 39-59, arguing that local conditions and factors played the critical role in the emergence of the reform impulse, a view O’Flaherty reaffirms in "Government in Newfoundland before 1832: The context of reform," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXXIV: 2 (Fall 1988): 26-30. Christopher English melds these two seemingly conflicting arguments to an extent in "The Official Mind and Popular Protest in a Revolutionary Era: The Case of Newfoundland, 1789-1819" in F. Murray Greenwood and Barry Wright (eds.), Canadian State Trials, Volume I: Law, Politics, and Security Measures, 1608-1837 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press for The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 1996), pp. 296-322. English argues that reformers in St. John’s were demanding something that, by then, the imperial context was prepared to allow. In "The Campaign for Representative Government in Newfoundland," Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, New Series, V (Calgary 1994): 19-40, Jerry Bannister also gives credit to both the emergent political culture and to colonial conditions in Newfoundland, with particular attention given to the role of the Chamber of Commerce. He argues that initial efforts by Irish Catholics to bring an end to "naval government" succeeded only when a broad-based coalition of Irish and Protestant community leaders formed in 1828 because of growing concerns over taxation; the reformers overcame resistance in London to representative government by developing support in Parliament. The press played a key role in this process. See also Bannister’s monograph, The Rule of the Admirals: Law, Custom, and Naval Government in Newfoundland, 1699-1832 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), especially the chapter on "The Fall of Naval Government."
Key individuals on both sides of this so-called "reform" process make their appearance in several volumes of the DCB: William Carson (VII: 151-157), Francis Forbes (VII: 301-304), Patrick Morris (VII: 626-634), Newman Wright Hoyles (VII: 420-421), Thomas Brooking (IX: 84-86). Concerning Francis Forbes, additional insight is also available through Bruce Kercher's previously mentioned essay on "The Australian Manuscripts Decisions of Sir Francis Forbes..." in the Dalhousie Law Journal XIX: 2 (Fall 1996): 417-24. The DCB should also be consulted for essays on individuals like James Lundrigan (VI: 409-411) and John Leigh (VI: 392-393), who figured in the particular events that seemed to underscore the need for reform, and on the governors whose reports and activities contributed to Great Britain's decision to abandon the fiction that Newfoundland was little more than an over-sized fishing station: see Gambier (VI: 270-271), Gower (V: 359-361), Duckworth (V: 273-276), Keats (VI: 371-373), Pickmore (V: 671-2), Hamilton (VII: 376-377, and Cochrane (X: 178-180).
Both the courts and the press played critical roles in
the development of political institutions, yet neither had been particularly
well served until recently when it comes to analyses of those roles. Reference has already been made to two articles by Christopher
English on the development of a Newfoundland legal system before 1832 ("The
Development of the Newfoundland Legal System to 1815" and "From Fishery Schooner
to Colony: The Legal Development of Newfoundland, 1791-1832"), but there
was not very much work done to carry the analysis forward into the period of
representative government. The
sketchy essay on the "Judiciary" in the ENL III: 143-149 was too
superficial to fill the need. This has begun to change, thanks in no small
measure to the efforts of the Law Society of Newfoundland & Labrador. The
Society’s series of publications organized by the “SS Daisy Legal History
Committee" has commissioned and released a number of volumes with essays on
Newfoundland legal history. Thus, The Face of Justice on Newfoundland’s
Northeast Coast (St. John's, NL: Law Society of Newfoundland, 2012), edited
by Christopher Curran and Melvin Baker, include two articles on the eighteenth
century: in “‘I shall show it to the governor’: Law and Authority in
Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland,” Jerry Bannister (drawing on research compiled
for his larger works) focuses here on the activities of merchant and justice
Benjamin Lester in eighteenth-century Trinity; in “Two Competing Authorities in
Eighteenth-Century Conception Bay: The Complaint of Conception Bay Merchants
against Reverend Laurence Coughlan,” Hans Rollmann explores the conflict in
Harbour Grace between local religious and secular authorities. Other essays in
that volume venture into the nineteenth century: Christopher Curran contributes
an essay on “The Judicature Act of 1824 and Its Antecedents,” Christopher Curran
and Linda White focus on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Greenspond in “The
Law at Greenspond,” while Robert Cuff and Gerald Penney look at “Harbour Grace
Court House, 1830-1834” and Jim Miller does the same for “The Trinity Court
House.” The Law Society also published Nina Jane Goudie, Down North on the
Labrador Circuit: The Court of Civil Jurisdiction 1826 to 1833 (St. John’s:
Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2005) and, most recently, A
Ferryland Merchant-Magistrate: The Journal and Cases of Robert Carter, Esq.,
J.P., 1832-1840, Vol. I, edited by edited by Christopher Curran (St.
John’s: The SS Daisy Publication series; St. John’s: Law Society of Newfoundland
& Labrador, 2013) and A Ferryland Merchant-Magistrate: The Journal and Cases
of Robert Carter, Esq., J.P., 1841-1852, Vol. II (St. John’s: The SS Daisy
Publication series; St. John’s: Law Society of Newfoundland & Labrador, 2014),
also edited by Christopher Curran. Finally, for a broader contemporary
perception of Newfoundland, not only in terms of its administrative and
political condition but also its economic and social conditions, students are
encouraged to read the report prepared by the judges of the Supreme Court of
Newfoundland and presented in 1831 to Governor Cochrane; see “The Judicature Act
of 1824 Revisited” by Christopher P. Curran and Melvin Baker in Newfoundland
& Labrador Studies XXX: 2 (Fall 2015), pp. 265-307.
Similarly, until recently, little work has been done on the nature and role of the press in the political and intellectual life of early nineteenth-century Newfoundland. Biographical essays about men who either reported the news or figured prominently in news stories appear in the DCB, including John Ryan (VII: 763-766), Henry Winton (VIII: 947-951), George Lilly (VII: 507-508), Robert Parsons (XI: 673-674), and Chief Justice Henry John Boulton (IX: 69-72). Then there is "The Road to Saddle Hill," an article by Patrick O'Flaherty in The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXXIX: 3 (Spring/Summer 1995): 21-26, which looks a little at the nature of early nineteenth-century newspapers as much as it looks at Henry Winton, and also Jerry Bannister's previously mentioned article on "The Campaign for Representative Government in Newfoundland," which credits the local press with transforming concerns over proposed new taxes into "a cogent argument for representative government." An article on "Journalism" appears in the ENL III: 125-135 but it is more descriptive than it is analytical. The most thorough treatment of the history of the press and journalism have been two dissertations, both by Maudie Whelan: Journalism in Newfoundland: A Beginning History (MJ thesis, Carleton University, 1993); and The Newspaper Press in Nineteenth-Century Newfoundland: Politics, Religion, and Personal Journalism (PhD thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2002). Neither, however, has been published, and it can only be hoped that this will soon change.
Return to "Reader's Guide" Home Page
Proceed to "Native People"
or continue on to "Nineteenth-Century Newfoundland"