Addenda: February 1675

Pages 596-598

Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 17, 1699 and Addenda 1621-1698. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1908.

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February 1675

Feb. 12.
1,118. Order of the King in Council. Referring the petition of William Hinton, setting forth that in 1670 the merchants of various West Country ports prayed for Newfoundland to be taken under the King's government, to Lords of Trade and Plantations for report, and ordering them to examine all petitions upon the subject. Copy. 1 p. [Colonial Papers, Vol. LXV., No. 15.]
[Feb. 12.] 1,119. Petition of William Hinton to the King. Praying for the King's consideration of petitions presented since 1670, for the settling of a government in Newfoundland. 1 p. Inscribed, Read in Council 12 Feb., 1675. Annexed,
1,119. I. Reasons for the settlement of Newfoundland under Government. It is the King's undoubted property. It is the next part of the West Indies adjacent to the King's Territories. It is the greatest, if not the only, nursery for seamen. When it had a government it produced £50,000 for Customs annually. The French have encroached, from want of a government there, and, as there was no English Governor there, have possessed and fortified the best harbours, keeping great garrisons to debauch English subjects to live under their protection. When there was a government foreigners were excluded.
Next, as to trade. When the country was fortified the trades flourished. The fishermen are now open to attack by pirates and all other enemies. There being no Governor, all stages, boats, etc., are destroyed either by the planters or the fishermen that come first every season, causing great delay, expense and waste. All the woods near the sea are now cut down and fired. The planters keep tippling houses and debauch the fishermen, being under no control. They seize the best drying places for houses. The best harbours are almost destroyed by casting of ballast into them. Great abuses are committed by fishing out of season, for want of a Governor and regulations. For want of government the West Country Adventurers send their men to New England to save their return voyage, and thus many good seamen are lost. Owing to a late Act the planters have been driven inland, and are seeking the protection of the French.
Lastly, as to the inhabitants. A Government could put an end to the abuses which they suffer from the rudeness of ungoverned seamen, against whom there is no redress. A settled Government would give them fortifications, and protection against such attacks as De Ruyter's. They will have Ministers of the Gospel among them, and they will receive equal justice. 2¼ pp. [Colonial Papers, Vol. LXV., Nos. 16, 16 I.]
[Feb. 23.] 1,120. Statement of the reasons why the West Country fishermen are against the taking of Newfoundland under the King's Government. (1) Many men in those parts subsist by letting out money at bottomry at 25 or 30 per cent. for the voyage, and, if the fishing were secure, money could be raised in other ways; (2) When the Western fishermen come to Newfoundland they pretend to privileges, and will not allow those who favour the King's Government to fish in quiet among them. (3) When Government is established they can no longer domineer over the poor inhabitants as they now do, but must leave the island to foreigners or put themselves under the protection of the French. (4) They will be hindered from sending their men to New England at the latter end of the year to save the charge of their passage home, by which custom fishermen are made scarce and the King is deprived of good seamen. (5) They fear that something will be required of the trade for the making and maintenance of forts and soldiers. They are like the cat that would fain have fish but will not wet her feet; and would rather that the country and trade were lost than that they should be under any rule but their own. In the late usurpation Dartmouth and the other places thought differently and petitioned Cromwell to set up a Government there. 1½ pp. [Colonial Papers, Vol. LXV., No. 17.]
[Feb. 23.] 1,121. Pretended reasons against erecting the King's Government in Newfoundland, with the answers thereto. 1. Government will be of no use, but a great charge and burden. 2. It will be a hindrance to the education of seamen. 3. It will be a prejudice to trade from the numbers of people that will flock thither after the Parliament is established. 4. No fortifications can be any security owing to the distance of the harbours.
Answers: 1. The Government is necessary to prevent the disorders and miscarriages which now beset the trade. It will be no burden, but the fishermen on the contrary will gain twenty for one. 2. It will greatly improve the education of seamen, for when the trade is regularly settled many more merchants will employ their stocks thither. 3. Nor will any multitude of people that flock thither prejudice the trade, for they themselves own that the country is too cold and barren to be lived in. Mr. John Gold answered this before the King and Council, saying that the public good must be preferred to the private. If the land be kept by the English under English Government, if the fish be caught, made, sold and navigated by the English to the improvement of the King's revenue, then the objections of anyone who loves his country are silenced. But let the land be never so well peopled, yet those that send out ships to fish are not barred of employment, though their employment may differ, and that for the better. For if the planters take the major part of the fish then the shipping will go far salt, to sell to the planters, which will bring them in as much as the fishing. If the French could be outwitted, we could gain the market of Spain, Portugal and Italy for sending of fish. At one time two hundred odd ships were in the fishing trade, but now not more than a third of that number; yet the planters were more numerous when the number of ships was highest. No one can desire to see the Newfoundland trade carried on as at present, for it is passing into our enemies' hands. But private should give way to public interest, and then Newfoundland could be secured. But if the number of planters be found hereafter prejudicial to trade they may be limited both as to number and trade. 4. The objection to fortifications is weak, for the French have them and have improved their trade by security. Our own misfortunes instruct us, for had St. John's and the Bay of Bulls been fortified, De Ruyter would not have ruined the planters when he came from Guinea. As soon as fishermen arrive, they lay up their ships till fishing is over. Under the King's Government they could do so within the harbour, fortified and secure, whereas now they are open to all the enemy's pirates and searovers. 2 pp. [Colonial Papers, Vol. LXV., No. 18.]
Feb. 25. 1,122. Order of Lords of Trade and Plantations. That the Mayors of the West Country ports (enumerated) be apprised of the King's order for enquiry into the affairs of Newfoundland, and be directed to send full particulars and information respecting it, as well as a correspondent to attend the Board. Copy. 1 p. [Colonial Papers, Vol. LXV., No. 19.]
Feb. 25. 1,123. Draft letter to the Mayors of the various West Country ports for the carrying of the foregoing order into effect. 1 p. [Colonial Papers, Vol. LXV., No. 20.]