1798, 10 January, Commander Ambrose Crofton (Portsmouth) to Vice Admiral William Waldegrave, Governor of Newfoundland [GN2/1/A, Vol. 14, ff. 122-151]
The bad state of health which I experienc'd during the latter part of the Pluto's Cruize round the island of Newfoundland, and along the Coast of Labradore, prevented my laying before you the observations made, and information detained during that Cruize, particularly as a violent Rheumatic complaint in my right Arm, deprived me the power of writing until lately. I therefore take the earliest opportunity of acquainting you, that in pursuance of your orders of the 11th August 1797, I thought it most expedient to visit the North part of Newfoundland and coast of Labradore as soon as possible, the season being far advanced. Consequently having pass'd along the NE coast, I put into the Harbour of Croque on the 16th August, and remained there two days; from thence I proceeded to the Coast of Labradore and Anchored in Temple Bay, where I was obliged to remain six days, the Wind constantly blowing into the Harbour, and having been inform'd that the French Ships which were [p. 123] detach'd from Admiral Richery's Squadron, had continued at Anchor two days in Chateaux or York Bay, after the British Settlement in Temple Bay was destroy'd by them in September 1796 and abandoned by the Proprietors. I therefore on the 21st August, caused the British Colours to be hoisted on a Flag Staff erected in the Centre of the upper Fort on Temple point, & re-took possession in His Majesty's Name. During my continuance in Temple Bay a large Shallop arrived from the Northward, with and belonging to a Tribe of Esquimaux Indians, consisting of six Men, five Women and seven Children: they were on their passage to the Harbour of Bradore, where it was their intention to remain the Winter with the English Fishermen, and to be employed in the seal Fishery. They had been so provident as to bring with them some Oil and Whalebone, to barter for English Provisions and necessaries, which they are now very partial to, preferring European Cloathing to the seal skin dresses they formerly appear'd in; and are now so much Civilized as to abhor raw Meat, and always dress their Victuals in a very decent manner, having several Cooking Utensils with them. They have likewise laid aside the Bow and Arrow for Musquets, & are excellent Marksmen.
The devastation committed by the French Ships in this Place, I suppose has [p. 124] discouraged the original Proprietors Messrs Pynsant and Noble, from carrying on Trade with any Spirit, having only one Shallop fishing here this summer, which has discouraged the Indian Trade, as other People now require Cloathing, Biscuit, Powder and Shot &ca and from their present deportment, it's most probable that in future they will become a very great acquisition to our Commerce. I am sorry to observe that want of knowledge of their language, and their short stay, prevented my obtaining all the information respecting them that I wish'd, but am confident they are Numerous, being not less than Four Thousand along the Coast to the Southward of the Moravian or Unitas Fratrum settlement, of whom they seem not to have any knowledge. Mr Noble's Agent who resided here the three last Winters, has not seen more than twenty Esquimaux Indians at one time at this Place. He says they form themselves into small Tribes under the control of a Chief of their own chosing, to whom the most implicit obedience is paid, and are strictly honest and well behav'd, which I had the opportunity of observing, having the whole Tribe to visit me twice on Board the Pluto, and sent them on shore much pleased with their reception.
I likewise beg leave to make known to you that the Esquimaux Indians are men inclined to pursue Commerce at a greater distance than any others that I have met with, not being particularly partial to their own Country; as the first object is to obtain a large shallop [p. 125] sufficient to transport not less than six Men with their Wives and Children. The one that I met with had six Canoes hoisted in, and for those shallops they pay a considerable amount in Oil, Whalebone and Furs. A Merchant from Quebec who has a small settlement about twenty Leagues to the Northward of Temple Bay, has hitherto been the principal supplyer, but from the great alteration I have observed in the Esquimaux Indians since I met them twenty Years ago, its probable in a short time they will navigate the Coast in Vessels of their own construction, as I discovered in their Shallop Carpenter and Shipwrights Tools of all descriptions. Before I conclude my observations respecting the Coast of Labradore, I think it proper to acquaint you, that Vessels from the United States of America have arrived here every Year since the Treaty of Peace, with that country, and as there has been no Ship hitherto appointed to attend their Motions, it's most probable they take every opportunity of Trading with the Indians. I have likewise heard that they have interrupted the British in the Salmon Fishery, having placed their Nets in Rivers which our Fishermen consider contrary to Treaty; Harbours, Bays and Creeks being particularly specifyed. Rivers not being mentioned.
It will therefore be satisfactory to have the right of Fishing in Rivers more fully explain'd, as reference will be made to the first [p. 126] Officer that happens to be on the spot during the time of catching Salmon, which was finish'd before my arrival on the Coast of Labradore, and the American Vessels departed.
Having caused the British Colours to be hoisted and formally retaken possession of the Coast in His Majesty's Name, and obtained every information in my power respecting the state of the fishery's along the Coast of Labradore (Viz:t No 3 which I had the honor of sending you at St. John's) I took advantage of the first easterly Wind on the 25th of August, and passed through the Streights of Belleisle close along the Labradore Shore, so far as the Esquimaux Islands, without meeting any particular circumstance, & then cross'd over to Point Rich on the Island of Newfoundland, look'd into the Bay of Ingornactroix, & from thence, close along shore to the Bay of Isles, without meeting any appearance of Inhabitants.
Being arrived near St George's Bay, and having heard of the Foreign Indians, Viz:t those from Nova Scotia and Isle of Cape Briton resorting to St George's Harbour [at] the head of that Bay, it therefore became a necessary object, particularly as St George's Bay was mentioned in your Orders. I therefore worked to windward up the Bay, and Anchor'd in St George's Harbour on the 29th of August, and remained two day's; on exploring the Harbour which is very spacious, I found the Inhabitants consisted of but two small [p. 127] Families, who had been there many Years, and were in a wretched state, not having any Establishments for carrying on the Cod Fishery, although very convenient to them, and seemed to depend on the Salmon Fishery for their principal support, which they carry annually to Harbour Briton, and there receiving Cloathing & some Provisions in Return.
From those people I was informed that the Foreign Indians always remain near to this Harbour during the Winter; that their principal motive is on Account of the great quantity of Eels that are found in Flat Bay near St George's Harbor, and all along the South Shore from Cape Anguille.
Those Indians have always been on an amicable footing with the two Families alluded to, and travel over land with their Furs annually to Fortune Bay, or the Bay of Despair, where they receive Powder, Shot and Blanketing in lieu of their Furs, which I find has been very trifling, owing to their indolence, the greater part of them having removed from Cape Briton in consequence of being inform'd that Deer was more abundant in Newfoundland. I understand their total number does not exceed One Hundred, and that it's ten Years since they Establish'd themselves in St George's Bay. They speak French, and possess the Roman Catholic Religion. When the French were at Newfoundland those Indians always carry'd their Furs to them, in [p. 128] preference to trading with the British Merchants; consequently they cannot be considered any great acquisition to this Country.
From St George's Bay I used every exertion in getting to the Magdaline Isles, although I was more than five days in effecting it; having arriv'd in Pleasant Bay on the Evening of the 5th September, and remain'd there four days, during which time we experienc'd a Hard Gale Easterly that made our situation rather alarming from the immense Sea caused by those Winds, and the bad state of the Pluto's Cables, on enquiry I found the Magdaline Islands had not been visited by any of His Majesty's Ships since the Year 1787. That they were inhabited by forty nine Families constant residents; Twenty of whom had arrived from the Islands of St Pierre and Miquelon since the War, without any permission, and are perfectly French Subjects; They appear to be comfortably situated, having good Houses, Gardens and cultivated ground, sufficient to support Stock for each Family.
The fertility of the Soil, and abundance of Grass on the Islands, I suppose has induced them to attend more to Agriculture than the Fishery, as I was inform'd, that the fish caught by them has not exceeded 3,000 Quintals this Season, and much the same the preceding Year. And the Seal fishery this Year has produc'd but Twenty five Tons of Oil.
[p. 129] From the disposition of the inhabitants it's most probable those that came from St Pierre and Miquelon, mean to return when the War terminates; hitherto they have been very orderly, having brought with them a Monsr Allen the Roman Catholic Clergyman, who had been in that situation many Years at Miquelon.
The only British fishery on the Islands is carried on by Mr John Janvrin of Jersey, who has but one Boat and three Men. He bought a House &ca from Mr Gridley of Boston, that had been resident here many Years before and since the last War. Mr Gridley was the Person who carried on the Sea Cow Fishery before the last War: was then in partnership with Mr Read of Bristol, but by what authority he establish'd himself here since the War I cannot learn, as he received all his Stores and Provisions from Boston in New England, and sent the produce of these Islands thither in Return; at present Mr Javrin has a small Store here with an Agent who remains the Winter to retail necessaries to the Inhabitants; his principal fishery is at Arrishot on Isle Madam in the Gut of Canso, to which place all the Fish and OIl that could be obtain'd from the Inhabitants of the Magdalines has been sent. I have to observe that there are seven Deck'd Shallops (belonging to the old Inhabitants) that [p. 130] were built on those Islands, in which the proprietors frequently make a Voyage to Quebec, carrying there part of their fish, and in General all the oil.
I was much surpris'd at finding a British Merchant Establishment here, on so small a scale, but am informed that the Island has been so much resorted to lately by American Vessels, that it has discouraged Mr Javrin from extending his Commerce.
This Year the Number of American Vessels drying Fish at the Magdalines amounted to Thirty five and more than two thirds of them have cured their fish in the Harbour of Amherst, and occupied so large a Space as to almost exclude Mr Javrin, or any British Adventurer, from pursuing the Fishery in an extensive way.
The Americans hitherto having met with no interruption (except a trifling altercation from Mr Javrin's Agent) have lately had the presumption to build several fish Stages and Flakes; they have not yet left any person to remain the Winter, but in the Spring bring two Crews for each Vessel; one of which remains on shore the whole Season to cure the Fish, as the Vessels make frequent trips, Fish being plenty all round the Islands, and I believe have never gone farther for it than the entrance to St George's Bay, Newfoundland, on a bank which has lately been discovered, South 4 Leagues distance from Cape St George.
[p. 131] The American Vessels having finish'd their Fishery for the Season, I therefore only observed to them, that I was of opinion that it was improper erecting Flakes &ca and so many Vessels resorting to one Harbor, supposing that my admonishing them, would now be too late to produce any effect for that Season, particularly as I conceived the Court of Great Britain seem'd inclined to be on an Amicable footing with the United States.
I therefore during my continuance in Pleasant Bay, used every means to prevent the Americans having any cause of complaint, and suffered as little intercourse as possible between them and the Pluto's, as I permitted but two Boats to land, one of which I was in myself.
Before I leave the Magdalines I am extremely sorry to acquaint you, that the Sea Cow fishery at those Islands, is totally annihilated, not one has been seen for many Years.
When that beneficial branch of Commerce was in its most affluent state, before the last War, the Egmont Schooner, which I belong'd to, was constantly employed cruising round the Island, to prevent Vessels disturbing those Animals in the Water, or on Shore, as they soon forsake any place where they are interrupted. When I was there formerly, those that were caught were taken on Shore, in great numbers, [p. 132] at one time, with the utmost caution &ca, and I am confident that the Sea Cow Fishery could not be carried on, on the same footing as the Cod fishery: it will not admit of competition; there must be an exclusive right.
I departed from Pleasant Bay on the 9th of September, and arrived at Miquelon Road on the 14th following, during the interim I had an opportunity of exploring the SW coast from the Western extremity of Newfoundland, Viz. Cape Ray to the entrance of the Bay of despair. There being no Fishery carried on at any Port to the Eastward of the Bay of Despair, it was therefore unnecessary to visit any of the Harbors.
Immediately on my arrival at Miquelon I caused the British Colours to be hoisted next to where the Commandants' House stood, and re-took possession in His Majesty's Name. I beg leave to observe that nothing remains on the Island but the Chimneys, the Houses &ca having been pulled down, and the Materials taken by the British Fishermen, to the Harbors contiguous. I was detained three days at Miqulon by a hard Gale at East, which blows in and causes a great Sea, and can now declare that Miquelon Road is a safer Roadstead than was hitherto supposed, as it had always been avoided by Ships of War.
From Miquelon Road I proceeded to Harbor Briton, in Fortune Bay, and arrived there in six hours.
[p. 133] From the 18th to the 28th of September I was obliged to remain at Harbor Briton, the Wind not permitting me to get out of Fortune Bay, although I made an attempt on the 24th but returned in the evening not being able to Weather the East part of the Bay.
During my continuance at Harbor Briton, I had an opportunity of observing the rapid increase of Winter Inhabitants in that District, as will appear by the return of the Fishery (No 1) although Winter Inhabitants should be totally discouraged, nevertheless the District of Fortune Bay comprehending the Bay of despair, holds out peculiar advantages by the Cod Fishery continuing all the Year, particularly in Bay despair [inserted comment: "say Hermitage Bay"] where it has never been known to fail; and nothing but the inclemency of the Season at times, prevents fish being caught all the Winter; but it's to be observed, in this part of Newfoundland Ice is seldom seen outside the Harbors or near the entrance.
They have another great advantage by being in the midst of the Herring Fishery, which commences the latter end of April, or beginning of May, and continues a few Weeks. The great quantity of Herrings that are found here at this time, encourages Adventurers from most parts of Newfoundland, particularly St John's and Placentia, and its only at this time, and by those adventurers that any [p. 134] Irregularities have been committed in the Fortune Bay District. A late instance, of which Mr Waldron of Harbor Briton had the honor of laying before you, through the Chief Justice.
Having sail'd nearly round the Island of Newfoundland, and passed the whole of the Coast that is unsettled, it will be here proper to remark that no Fishing Ship has attempted to make any Establishment within the French limitz, Viz. from Cape Ray to Cape St John's: an extent of Coast not less than 146 Leagues, measuring from the nearest head-lands, and equal almost to half the Island. I am sorry to observe that the SW coast from Cape Ray to the entrance of Bay Despair, is totally forsaken, no fishing of any kind being carried on along that Coast for some Years, although an extent of 44 Leagues. Consequently it will now appear that we have no fishery to the Northward of Fogo, nor to the Westward of the Bay of Despair.
When I was at the Harbor of Croque (the latter end of August) which was always considered the principal one by the French, the quantity of Fish there and at the Harbors contiguous thereto, was astonishing. Some of the Merchants from St John's and Trinity, had sent a few large Shallops there, in preference to the Banks, those that I met with, had five Men in each Boat, and caught not less than [p. 135] Forty Quintals, in less than Twelve Hours fishing near to the entrance of the Harbors. This part of the Coast not having been disturbed by any fishing Ships during the War, may have occasioned the immense quantity to be met with at this time.
Before I leave Harbor Briton I think it my duty to have the honor of pointing out to you some particulars respecting the Herring Fishery in Fortune Bay, during the Months of April and May, as the greater part of their people fit out their Boats at Placentia and St John's, where they have Winter'd, and are Men of no property, in general having the Boats and Materials on Credit, and many of them depart in hopes of making something considerable, by carrying Passengers to Nova Scotia, where the Herrings are sold for cash, and sometimes the Boat. A recent instance happened last Summer from Placentia.
But the great evil attending this Fishery is, that the Boats, when fitting out and during their Coasting Voyage, offer a Passage at a small expence, to all persons wishing to be landed in America, where many Artisans & Fishermen are taken away, particularly those that are in debt, and Deserters from the Army and the Navy. As the Crews of Herring Vessels thus obtained have lately been found very obnoxious, I humbly beg leave to offer my [p. 136] opinion that an Arm'd Vessel or Sloop of War stationed at Harbor Briton during the Month of May, would very much contribute to releive [sic] the minds of the well disposed People in that District, and be the means of giving protection to a large property belonging to Merchants in Poole, dartmouth and Jersey, who from the late conduct of the Herring Fishers, have much to apprehend, as there's but one Justice of the Peace in this large District, who only resides there during the Summer; and should any thing prevent him returning, I believe it would be very difficult to supply his place.
Being anxious to fulfil that part of Your Orders respecting re-taking possession of St Pierre, [I] therefore embraced the first opportunity of departing from Harbor Briton on the morning of the 28th of Sepr, and expected to have anchored in St Peter's Road the same day, but when I had arrived close to the entrance, a hard Gale at W.S.W. drove me off, and prevented me regaining my situation until the 30th, when I moored in the Road, and the following morning assembled the Inhabitants, erected a Flag Staff on the spot where the Governor's House stood, landed with the Marines and Principal Officers, and hoisted the Union Flag, having read the Manifesto which I had the honor of sending you from Placentia, a Copy of which I left at St Peter's to be shewn to all Strangers that might arrive.
There are but three Families on the Island, and were present during Admiral Richery's [p. 137] continuance in September 1796; those People declare that when the French landed, the National Colours were hoisted and the Squadron remain'd at Anchor part of four days, having arrived the 21st and departed the 24th September, during which time there Ships were watered and a Party in the Town burning any thing that remain'd. The Church and the Governor's House being the only buildings of consequence that had escaped, the British fishermen who have lately been so vigilant as to pull down all the Chimneys and take away the Materials they were compos'd of. I am sorry to observe this mode of Conduct has been general throughout the French limits.
At Croque although firewood is plenty, there is not the smallest vestage of a House, Flake or Fish Stage remaining.
Should it be found expedient at the termination of this War, to restore the Islands of St Pierre and Miquelon to the French, I fear it will be found necessary to allow them to receive Spars from the Island of Newfoundland for erecting their Stages and Flakes, without which I am of opinion the Islands would not be tenable, as they were in a much better state at the conclusion of the last War with respect to those Materials. Houses they have always received from the States of America, and formerly Miquelon furnish'd a vast deal of Spars and Bushes for erecting their fishing Establishments, but that Island is now a perfect [p.138] Barren.
I hope that I have not been too presuming in offering an opinion on this subject, but should the French make a request, it's to be considered how it may affect our fishery in Fortune Bay, permitting Wood to be cut there, being so contiguous to St Pierre and Miquelon.
Having fulfilled your Orders with respect to taking possession of those Islands to the utmost of my abilities, I sail'd for Placentia and arrived there the 3d of October, and endeavoured to collect the best return of the fishery in my power, which I had the honor of sending you at St John's (No 2) and regret very much at my not being able to obtain a more extensive report; The Naval Officer for the Placentia District, having been lately appointed, and at that time employed on the West side of the Bay providing the necessary information. The Wind continuing to the Westward obliged me to remain here, until the Morning of the 11th of October. The preceding day in a Violent gale at West we had the Misfortune to part the small Bower Cable, and were some hours in a very dangerous situation.
Having but one Cable to depend on & the principal Sails in so bad a condition as to make it doubtful how long we could contend with a contrary Wind, likewise short of Provisions and none to be procured at Placentia. Thus circumstanc'd I was induced to endeavour to reach the Harbor of St John's as [p. 139] expeditiously as possible, least a hard Gale at N.W. should oblige me to bear up.
With respect to the Native Indians I am sorry to say, that the bad weather I experienc'd when near to the Funk Island and Fogo, prevented my seeing those places, to which I have heard that the native Indians sometimes resort. Indeed the Season was so far advanced, as to make it unsafe for a Ship to venture near Fogo, even with a good Pilot (which I could not obtain) and had it been practicable so much time wou'd have elapsed as to prevent my getting through the Streights [sic] of Belleisle and visiting the Magdalines. I can therefore only speak from report respecting those Indians, who make the Bay of Exploits their Head Quarters in the Winter, and have never been seen during the Summer, to the Northward of Cape St John, nor to the Southward of Cape Freels. They frequently make excursions to the Island of Fogo for Plunder, and to Funk Island for Birds and Eggs, and its remarkable that those expeditions are made during the thickest Fog, without the aid of a Compass, although the distance is twelve Leagues. The depradations committed by the latter [something has been omitted here; Crofton is clearly referring here to the fishermen of Fogo] has been hitherto kept secret, and it's a Misfortune that no person of responsibility is resident during the Winter Months near to the Bay of exploits. The only Magistrate in the district contiguous to [p. 140] where those Indians have been discovered is a Mr Cheater, Agent for Mr Lyster [Lester?] of Poole, and Master of one of his Ships, who remains but for a few Months in the Summer in the Island of Fogo; it's therefore natural to suppose his time is so much occupied by his Master's business as to prevent him attending to the Functions of a Magistrate, particularly what relates to the Native Indians, as they inhabit a part of the Coast not less frequented than any other, are therefore more liable to be interrupted by the bad dispos'd part of their Neighbours, who have in the Winter, driven them from their Habitations, & plunder'd their Huts.
Their situation (unless some steps are taken to protect them) in a short time will be truly deplorable, as they are unacquainted with the use of Gunpowder, and so much alarm'd at the report of a Musquet, as to quit their Habitations immediately; which has been the case when discovered by the Fishermen.
And should the St George's Bay or Foreign Indians who are always provided with Powder and shot, think proper to make an excursion across the Island, it's probable those People may prove an implacable Enemy, having acquired sufficient knowledge of the interior to pass with great facility.
Frequent Proclamations have been published by the former Governors of [p. 141] Newfoundland respecting the Native Indians, without having had any effect, sufficiently evinces the necessity of adopting a more effectual mode towards producing so humane an object, and as I have had the honor to be chosen to collect the necessary information; it therefore becomes a point of Duty to me, to observe how ineffectual former Proclamations have proved.
I trust it will not be thought too presuming in me to dictate the necessity of having some small Establishment appointed towards producing so desirable an undertaking, and as that part of the Coast of Newfoundland where the Native Indians constantly resort, has not yet been survey'd, I humbly suggest that a small Vessel, similar to the Grenville Brig that was employed Surveying there formerly, might act in a double Capacity, by having proper people on board qualified to Civilize the Indians, whilst others were surveying the Coast. I have never heard the cause of this part of the Coast remaining so long unsurvey'd, which is by far the most dangerous to approach; perhaps it may be supposed, not advantageously situated for the Fishery, being far from the Banks, and much Embay'd, but even should that be the case, the large Timber, which the Harbors abound with, will soon make it much frequented, as that Article becomes very scarce contiguous to where the Shipping have lately been built, Viz.t Trinity and Placentia.
[p. 142] My only reason for proposing to have the two appointments on board the same Vessel was from Motives of economy, and I have still further to observe that the Summer Season will not be sufficient to Civilize those Indians, as attention must be paid to them during the Winter, least the rapacious Fishermen who have so long been in the habit of destroying them, should undo, all the good that might have been produced during the Summer, therefore the same Vessel or part of her Crew should remain the Winter in the most eligible situation, which might soon be discovered, and at the Island of Fogo provisions be procured or a temporary Magazine placed there.
Should it be inconvenient employing a Vessel of this discription [sic], perhaps people might be found on the Island of Fogo, equal to such an undertaking, or at least might be useful, as the Fishery there has been carry'd on many Years by Merchants of respectability from Poole, Viz.t Messrs Lester, Slade, Handcock & Co, wherefore reference may be made to those Gentlemen.
As I conceive it may be satisfactory replying in some measure to the different articles of Instructions which accompanied your Orders of the 11th August, [I] shall therefore take them in succession, begining [sic] with the Article relative to Illegal trade, which I have to observe is not practiced. The Americans undoubtedly would wish to bring Provisions &ca to Truck for the Planters fish, but the Merchants are so [p. 143] jealous of them, as to inspect their conduct as strictly as a Custom House Officer would, therefore no danger is to be apprehended from them, unless they meet the Indians at Labradore, where if not watch'd, frequent opportunities offer of Trading.
British Vessels with salt from Portugal, have never attempted to bring Wine in large quantities. I make no doubt but [at] the Out Ports Wine is brought for their own Consumption; at St John's it is not the case.
With respect to the 2nd Article, I have to observe, that when the Act of Parliament was passed requiring the employer to withold forty shillings for each fisherman's passage home, The Merchants in those days, did not charge more than thirty Shillings, but at this time not less than three Pounds is charged, therefore I think fishermen may be prevented returning to England, should the Merchants have it in their power to raise the Price of passage home.
The 4th Article which relates to the fishermen returning to Great Britain, and preventing them going to the United States.
I am sorry to inform you that the three last Winters that I was in Newfoundland, Fishermen and People of all descriptions went to America late in the Season, in the most public and official manner; I say Official as the Vessels in which they embarked [p. 144] clear'd out at the Customs House for Ireland to carry Passengers when it was notoriously known, that the Passengers, and Master of the Vessel had previosuly agreed, that the Crew should be confined by the Passengers, who were to take possession of the Vessel soon after she sail'd, and carry her to America, where having landed the Master then entered a Protest & returned to Newfoundland; a Copy of one I have with me.
The 5th Article which relates to the Americans fishing at Newfoundland, seems not perfectly understood with respect to the Salmon Fishery, as on the Coast of Labradore and most parts of Newfoundland those Fish are caught in Rivers, where I have been informed the Americans have placed their Nets, although Coasts and Bays and Creeks are particularly mentioned which excludes them from the Salmon Fishery; therefore the Officer that may be employed on that Coast must expect reference made to him.
Having mentioned the state of the Magdaline Islands in the preceding part of this Narrative, it will be unnecessary saying any thing on that head.
The 6th Article particularly specifying the Coast of Labradore, has been in a great measure reply'd to; have only to observe that from its great extent there are sufficient and convenient situations for many adventurers, and I hope that the state of the Esquimaux Indians may be a greater inducement to [p. 145] trade on that coast, than formerly. I am sorry to observe that the British have not attempted a Whale Fishery, although the Americans constantly send Vessels to Hermitage Bay Newfoundland, and this Year two small Schooners from Boston between the 11th May and 7th August, killed Nineteen Whales which produced 374 Barrels of OIl. The Crew did not receive Wages; were on shares, and provided their own Provisions.
All the Harbors &ca that I have been in, having been Survey'd makes it unnecessary replying farther to the 7th Article. There being sufficient Room in all the Harbors, and indeed not many places not made use of, that no reference has been made to me respecting the 8th Article; There has been no Record kept of of the fishing places mentioned in the 9th Article but in most of the Harbours old Inhabitants are to be found that can point them out. No reference is made to Fishing Admirals where a Justice or Surrogate is resident; Having the Fish properly Cured and Ship'd is so great an object to all parties that the best method is practised.
The Salmon being caught at the time that the Cod fishery is at its greatest extent, Viz.t when the Caplin is on the coast, I suppose prevent the Salmon fishery being better attended to; which continues but a short time.
[p. 146] I have never heard of any Mines being discovered except at Shoal Bay, near to Bay of Bulls, the working of which is been discontinued some Years.
No complaint has been made respecting the Birds since a Mr Gill of St John's, was fined, for having employed his people contrary to the 16th Article of Instructions. The Fishermens' Wages varying at the different Ports, makes it difficult to form an exact statement, but have observed it to increase rapidly during my continuance in Newfoundland, and can say that in general, a Boat's Master has received £50, and a fore [sic? shore?] Shipman £18 last summer; which is double the hire formerly, and this Wages is always paid in Bills of Exchange on Great Britain or Ireland at Sixty days after Sight. There are but few on Shares.
The Price of Provisions at St John's in Summer is fluctuating, and at the Out Harbors they are Govern'd by the St John's Price, but never cheaper, generally considered dearer, and during the Winter Months I have observed the Price of Provisions always to increase with respect to other Articles, particularly Shop goods are frequently sold for Double what they may be purchased in England, the venders declare that the present high price of Freight and Increase [of] Insurance, in addition to the first cost, with what they conceive to be a moderate profit, raises the price to what I have mentioned.
Any reply to the 19th Article is, that it has been a constant practice, for the last four Years, [p. 147] and I believe long before that time, to sell, Mortgage and Lease Houses, Land &ca in all parts of Newfoundland, particularly at St John's, where public Notice is frequently given of such proceedings, and even from the Supreme Court of Judicature, the High Sheriff has received Instructions to sell Houses &ca when the defendant was not otherways able to pay. In short landed Property in Newfoundland is now considered as Valuable there, as in any part of England, and the Rents are no where more regularly paid, but shou'd an investigation take place with respect to the landed property & Houses, it would be very difficult for many of the Properties to have a Title.
When I was at the coast of Labradore, I made enquiry concerning the Society of Unitas Fratram, but could not receive any information respecting them; therefore conclude their Settlement is farther North, than were [sic: where] Mrs Noble & Pynsant have any trade, but apprehend information respecting them may be obtained in London.
Having reply'd to the several Articles of Instructions in Succession, it only remains for me to speak more fully to the latter part of the 17th Article, which require that I should consider and make report of such measures as it may be proper to pursue for the prosperity of the Trade and Fishery, which in my opinion now becomes a very difficult Task.
The Island of Newfoundland having more the appearance of a Colony than a Fishery, from [p. 148] the great number of people that have annually imperceptably remaind the Winter, who now have Houses, Land & Families, it's true those people are employed in the Fishery but so much attach'd to Newfoundland that it's with the greatest difficulty a few of them can be pursuaded to make a Voyage to Market, even in a Vessel belonging to the Island; And the population of this Island has so rapidly increased, that in a few Years an extensive Fishery may be carried on there by the Inhabitants alone, without receiving annual supplies of Men from England and Ireland, as heretofore. This Idea certainly makes landed property so desireable, and consequently the great object of being a Nursery for Seamen, and having an opportunity of making use of those Men during War, is totally frustrated by the fishermen remaining at Newfoundland the Winter, who are now so numerous, that it woud be a serious and difficult Task to dispossess them. This great evil has arisen from the land being cultivated and Houses suffered to be built. The French never permitted any of their fishermen or Merchants to remain on the Island of Newfoundland during the Winter, in consequence of which the fishermen were always forthcoming, nor had they any Military or Civil Establishment to support, except on the Islands of St Pierre and Miquelon, which was trifling, but a Great Bounty was given for the Fish caught, which was an inducement to Adventurers.
The English Merchants boast of the great quantity of British Manufactures &ca that is consumed at Newfoundland during the Winter. But [p. 149] if the consumers were obliged to return to Great Britain at the end of the fishing Season, I apprehend an equal or greater quantity would be consumed, the Wages all laid out where it was intended, and expected. Seamen formed by crossing the Atlantic frequently, and those easily procured by the state when their Services were required.
The great object is to remedy this increasing evil, which certainly requires serious consideration, and I should feel myself extremely fortunate were my abilities by any measure equal to suggesting a plan, but really any thing on this kind of Subject, is what I am by no means equal to, [I] can therefore only take upon me to say, that I shall be at all times ready to answer any Questions, as it's natural to suppose that my long residence has enabled me to observe more of the nature of the Newfoundland trade and disposition of the people, than any Man that has not been concerned in the fishery.
From what I have observed respecting the Americans at the Magdaline Islands, shou'd you think it improper for them to continue as heretofore, a Ship or Vessel the latter end of May would be in time to prevent them, as the fishery does not begin before the 20th May, and the same Ship might previously be employed in Fortune Bay attending the Herring Fishery, and giving protection to that District. At the Magdaline Islands fresh Provisions is plenty and cheap; the Pluto had very good Beef and Mutton [p. 150] for 6d per pound, and as the Inhabitants prefer Cash to Bills for the former, they sold at 5d.
As there is but nine feet water on the Bar of Amherst Harbour, even at Spring Tides, Vessels of a greater Draught must remain in Pleasant Bay which is open to the Easterly wind.
Although it may not be perfectly regular mentioning Garrisons, nevertheless as I apprehend Placentia has never been honor'd with a Visit from you, I therefore have to remark how very ineligible that Fort or Garrison is placed: so much so, as to be an easy conquest for One Frigate; and as there is a Company of the Newfoundland Regiment there, with a Party of the Royal Artillery, which must be expected to retreat as expeditiously as possible should the place be attacked and would therefore be totally useless, as its uncertain how long they might be, or if ever they should be able to reach Head Quarters at St John's, which is the only part of the Island at present that could make any defence against the Enemy; therfore all the force that could be collected should centre at St John's, consequently a Company of the Newfoundland Regiment cannot be spared for Placentia, where, in my opinion, a Serjeant's party would be sufficient to guard the Stores, as the Company above alluded to, were sent from St John's during the Governor's absence, and a short time previous to Admiral Richery's arrival on the Coast, wherefore their loss was felt particularly at St John's, as it was expected to hear of their retreating [p. 151] from Placentia, had any part of the French expedition arrived there.
I beg leave to observe that I am not Singular in my opinion respecting the situation of the Fort at Placentia, nor of the Troops that compose that Garrison, having heard the same Sentiment expressed by the Officer that was Commandant there many Years, and I believe is now at Woolwich.
I did expect to have had the honor of laying before you a more particular return &ca of the states of the Magdaline Islands, but unfortunately left my remarks with Lists of Inhabitants Names, time they have lived on the Islands, number of Cattle and quantity of cultivated Land &ca with some papers on board the Pluto, which I hope to receive at her return.
I shall therefore conclude this unconnected Narative [sic], hoping your candor will excuse the many imperfections &ca that may appear, and have the honor to be with the Greatest Respect,
Your most obedient and
most humble servant
(Signed) Ambrse Crofton
The Hble. Wm. Waldegrave
Vice Admiral of the Blue,
Commander in Chief at Newfoundland