Copyright
William Henry Parr Greswell.

Outlines of British colonisation online

. (page 5 of 31)
Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 5 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


breadfruit, date, mangosteen, and durian. All these and many
more are found on these islands are found, indeed, in the
small island of Dominica ; but some are at present practically
unknown to Northern people.

* Then besides fruits there are abundant supplies of vege-
tables, which could be shipped to reach Northern markets in
the depth of winter, and realise good prices. The finest green
peas, the best new potatoes, and the most luscious tomatoes are
procurable here a fortnight before Christmas, and the supply is
limited only by the means at hand for disposing of them, and
getting them quickly and freshly into the proper market.



44 British Colonisation

' The cultivation of the West Indian lime has already been
discussed. Of fibres suited for cordage and weaving purposes
there are at least a score or two that could easily be grown.
Sisal hemp (Agave) is now being largely taken up in the neigh-
bouring Bahamas. If more land is required to grow this fibre,
there are thousands of acres in Anguilla and the Virgin Islands
exactly suited to its requirements. Mauritius hemp could be
grown at Anguilla and elsewhere ; there is Egyptian cotton and
ordinary cotton to be tried at Antigua, St. Kitts, and Anguilla;
tobacco at St. Kitts, where long ago it was a staple industry ;
cocoa-nuts for fresh nuts, for oil, for fibre, and for cocoa-nut
butter, for all islands possessing sandy beaches. And besides
these there are industries in arrow-root, in cola-nut, in fruit
syrups, india-rubber, scent plants, and numerous medicinal
plants. A promising new industry is that of gambier, used
for tanning purposes.'

References :

The West Indies, by C. Washington Eves, 1889.

Historical Geography of the British Colonies , vol. ii. , by C. P. Lucas.

Martin's British Colonies, 1834.

Gardner's History of Jamaica, 1873.

Schomburgk's History of Barbados, 1848.

De Verteuil's Trinidad, 1884.

Gibb's British Honduras, 1883.

Schomburgk's Description of British Gtiiana, 1840

Among the Indians of Guiana, by im Thurn, 1883.

Voyage in the Sunbeam, 1884.

At Last, by Canon Kingsley, 1871.



CHAPTER III

NEWFOUNDLAND

THE island of Newfoundland enjoys the peculiar honour of
being the oldest of Great Britain's numerous colonies and
settlements. A Bristol Chronicle of ancient date records that
'in the year 1497, the 24th of June, on St. John's Day, was
Newfoundland found by Bristol men in a ship called the
Matthew.' This is generally accepted to be the brief state-
ment of a great fact, and the leader of the enterprise was a
Cabot. Questions have arisen whether it was John Cabot or
Sebastian his son, whether the Cabots were of Italian or of
English birth, and whether the first landfall was that of the
island of Newfoundland or the continent of America. Those
who have examined these matters believe that, although John
Cabot was the moving spirit of the expedition, it was his son
Sebastian, then from twenty-five to thirty years old, who was
the navigator in command. There seems no doubt as to the
Italian extraction of the Cabots. John Cabot, a Genoese by
birth and a Venetian by citizenship, 'came to London to
follow the trade of merchandise,' and afterwards settled at
Bristowa, or Bristol, where probably Sebastian was born.
Here, in the west of England, was the important centre of
England's trade and commerce ; here, for generations, trade
was carried on with the Baltic, Norway, Holland, Hamburg,
and all parts of Europe. The town was placed more favour-
ably than London for all Western and Southern ventures, and
here there lived some of the hardiest sailors in the world.

45



46 British Colonisation

Down the Bristol Channel and along the coasts of Devon
there were never wanting sailors who, whether from Dartmouth,
Plymouth, Fowey, Barnstaple, or Bridgwater, were willing to
explore the furthest regions of the world, then for the first
time thrown open to the enterprise of Europe by the skill and
perseverance of the great Columbus.

Bristol was especially noted for its ventures to Iceland and
to the northern fisheries, back to those homes of the old
Scandinavian sea-kings ; and therefore such an enthusiastic
geographer and enterprising merchant as John Cabot would
find a very congenial home here. The Cabots were especially
anxious to discover the north-west passage and the fabled
island of Cipango in the equinoctial region, ' where it was
believed there were gems and all the spices of the world.'
Such was the temper of the age, and such the enthusiasm
inspired by the example of Columbus, that Cabot had no
difficulty in obtaining from Henry vn. a charter for himself
and his three sons, Lewis, Sebastian, and Sanctus. He
gathered men for his expedition from Bristol and Bridgwater,
* the sailors of the latter place being renowned for their love
of enterprise.'

The tidal river of the Parret, on which Bridgwater is built,
extends far up from the Bristol Channel towards the historic
regions of Athelney, Glastonbury, and King's Sedgemoor, and
has borne on its waters adventurers who have gone forth to
fight and trade from the days of King Alfred to those of the
great Admiral Blake, who was born close to its tawny flood.
Sebastian Cabot, therefore, gathering his west-country crew
together, steered his vessel probably along the well-known
Iceland tack in the first instance, and then westwards until he
sighted a part of the coast of Labrador, winning for British
sailors and for himself the honour of being the first to sight the
American continent a feat which Columbus himself, who
had been exploring and naming the numerous islands of the
Caribbean Seas, did not accomplish till his last voyage. This
took place in the course of the following year, when he coasted



Newfoundland 47

along a part of the Isthmus of Darien. 1 Steering southwards
along the stormy regions of Labrador, Cabot sighted New-
foundland, which was first of all called Baccalaos, or the land
of cod-fish.

Thus Newfoundland was seized for England by the skill of
Cabot ; and Samuel Purchas, in his admiration for this and
for subsequent explorations of this notable ' Pilot,' argues that
the continent of America should not have been so called from
Americus Vesputius, but Cabotiana or Sebastiana from Cabot.
As it is, the name of Cabot is not to be found upon the map
of America, and has only been recently given by the Newfound-
land Legislature, on the occasion of the erection of a light-
house, to a group of barren islands on the Newfoundland coast.
Cabot's second expedition under Henry vn.'s charter con-
sisted of five ships, and he ' directed his course by the tract of
Iceland upon the Cape of Labrador at 58. He then turned
to the west, following the coast of Baccalaos to lat. 38, whence
he returned to England.' 2 On this second voyage Cabot got
as far as Hudson's Straits, where he was turned back by ice.

In the west country the fame of these discoveries went far
and wide, and the desire of making the north-west passage
was long present to the minds of the sailors of the western
ports. In old Martin Frobisher's days there was an expedition
to find the fabled Straits of Anian and the kingdom of the
great Khan. Here again the sailors of the Parret are to the
fore. There is the Ema of Bridgwater and the Emanuel of
Bridgwater, vessels found in Frobisher's third expedition. It
may be mentioned that at Meta Incognita, at the entrance of
Hudson's Straits, about the limit of Sebastian Cabot's second
voyage, Frobisher and his fleet turned aside to what they
thought were glittering gold-mines in the Arctic Seas, and so
for many weeks ballasted their ships with heaps of stones,
glittering with mica, imagining the true El Dorado to be under
the Pole, and not in Mexico or Peru. The Bridgwater

1 Campbell's Lives of the Admirals (1779), vol. i. p. 328.

- Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, vol. xvi. p. 225.



48 British Colonisation

captains, one of whom was almost wrecked in the ice-floes
of the north, were bitterly disappointed when, in company
with the ships of Fowey and Barnstaple, they returned empty-
handed. 1

Although by right of discovery Newfoundland was the prize
of the British crew under Cabot, no official proclamation was
made on the island until the 5th of August 1583, when, under
commission from Queen Elizabeth, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, the
well-known west-country sailor, landed on the island. Sir
Walter Ralegh, his half-brother, had started with him on the
expedition, but was compelled to return owing to sickness
breaking out on board his vessel. The ships commanded by
Gilbert which arrived at Newfoundland were the Delight,
the Golden Hind, the Swallow, and the Squirrel. When they
arrived they found a foreign fishing-fleet there, who offered at
first some opposition ; but afterwards, in the presence of the
merchants and fishermen of all nations assembled there, Sir
Humphrey opened and read his commission, and informed
them that by virtue of the Royal grant he assumed possession
and government of St. John's and the adjoining territory to the
extent of 200 leagues. ' There were delivered to him in token
of submission the feudal symbols of turf and twig ; and there
he raised the English banner and erected a wooden pillar, to
which were attached the arms of England engraved on lead.
He granted several parcels of land in consideration of rent and
services, and laid a tax upon shipping.' The occupation was
complete and final, and from that day of August 1583 to the
present England has maintained her sovereignty. It was on
his return voyage that Sir Humphrey Gilbert went down in the
Squirrel uttering these well-known words : ' Cheer up, lads ;
we are as near heaven by sea as by land.'

It will be seen, therefore, that although the occupation of

Newfoundland was complete and formal, the shadows of

disaster fell upon its early career as a colony. Sir Walter

Ralegh was baulked of his intention to be an cekist or leader

1 Frobisher's Voyages, Hakluyt Series.



Newfoundland 49

of the enterprise, and Sir H. Gilbert perished in the stormy
waters of the North Atlantic. Had things been otherwise, Sir
Walter Ralegh's energies might have been directed to New-
foundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence instead of further south
to Virginia. West-countrymen, however, still pursued the
enterprise. Mr. John Guy, merchant, and Mayor of Bristol,
obtained a grant of a great part of Newfoundland from James i.,
in company with Lord Bacon and a number of noblemen and
gentlemen.

The great value of the island from the very beginning con-
sisted in its fisheries. Raimondo di Soncino, writing to the
Duke of Milan (1497) on the subject of Newfoundland,
observes that * Englishmen, Cabot's partners, say that they can
bring so many fish that this kingdom will have no more
business with Islanda (Iceland), and that from that country
there will be a very great trade in the fish which they call stock-
fish.' The Venetian ambassador at the Court of Portugal,
writing in 1501, describes the island and people of New-
foundland as having 'plenty of salmon, herring, cod, and
other fish.' Three years after Cabot, Caspar Cortereal, a
Portuguese gentleman, had sailed to Newfoundland and the
north-west, and had been wrecked and lost in those northern
waters a fate which overtook his brother Michael, who had
sailed in search of him. The Portuguese, therefore, keen
mariners as they were, became alive to the value of the
northern fisheries. A place called Portuguese Cove still
remains as a proof of their enterprise.

But the Breton and Biscayan fishermen were the most per-
sistent fishermen off the banks of Newfoundland. An old
writer says that ' the Brytons and French are accustomed to
take fyssche on the coast of these lands, where there is found
great plenty of Tunnyes'; and in 1527 an English expedition
under Captain Rut found at Newfoundland eleven sail of
Normans, one Breton, and two Portugal barks engaged in
fishing at St. John's harbour. In 1578 the number of vessels
employed in the cod fisheries was 400, of whom only 50 were

D



50 British Colonisation

English. The value, however, of the enormous supplies of
fish was clear to all Englishmen. Lord Bacon declared that
'the fisheries of Newfoundland were more valuable than
all the mines of Peru' ; and from such a source of wealth
Englishmen, with their seafaring aptitudes, were not likely
to be long debarred. In 1615 there were nearly three hun-
dred English ships engaged in the fisheries; and in 1674 it
was calculated that no fewer than 11,000 seamen were em-
ployed in the industry, and a permanent colony began to
be formed.

One of the most interesting incidents in the history of the
island during the seventeenth century was the organised settle-
ment of Lord Baltimore (Sir George Calvert, 1624). As
Under Secretary of State, he obtained a grant of the island
from James i. Being converted to the Roman Catholic faith,
he had to resign his Ministerial post, and determined to settle
on the peninsula of Avalon in Newfoundland, a name given by
himself after that spot in England in the valley of the
Somersetshire Parret. Here, at a place called Ferryland,
Lord Baltimore lived for some time, and here he was exposed
to the hostilities of the French, who had obtained a large share
of the island under charter from Charles I., to whom at first
they paid tribute. Lord Baltimore was compelled to abandon
the settlement and Avalon, and, going further south to the
mainland of America, he founded the State of Maryland and
the city of Baltimore. Sir David Kirke became grantee of the
possessions of Lord Baltimore, and, being a staunch Loyalist,
he offered Charles i. an asylum in Newfoundland, of which,
possibly, he might have availed himself had he been able to
escape.

It will easily be understood how this contested dominion
with France retarded the peaceful settlement of the island.
As perpetual and as unending as the storms around its cliffs
has been the rivalry between French and English sailors.
The maritime enterprise of the French nation at an early date
fully equalled, if it did not excel, that of the British. The



Newfoundland 5 1

French were the first to set aside the restriction of Pope
Alexander's bull that divided the New World between Spain
and Portugal. It is a well-known fact that the merchant ven-
turers of Rouen and the seamen of Normandy sailed to the
Gold Coast, and founded factories and settlements at Elmina,
Fantin, and Cormontin long before our Bristol venturers had
explored these regions. Greatest of all, perhaps, was Jacques
Cartier of St. Malo, who hoisted the flag of his nation on the
coasts of Newfoundland, sailed up the St. Lawrence, and laid
the foundation of New France, that afterwards was destined,
under the able guidance and management of generations of
Frenchmen, to attain to such goodly proportions. In the
island of Newfoundland, therefore, the British sailors found no
undisputed heritage, but a colony for which they have been
compelled to fight hard, and to expend much toil and labour.
Under the rough circumstances of the island, a fixed and stable
government was out of the question. According to a well-known
statute that was promulgated in the reign of William in., it was
provided that the master of any sailing-vessel from England,
Wales, or Berwick-upon-Tweed, who, in each year, first entered
any harbour or creek in the island should be admiral of the
harbour or creek, and have full power to decide all differences
between the fishermen and the inhabitants.

During the seventeenth century, and especially at its close,
the fortunes of Newfoundland as a colony were at a low ebb.
No Englishmen thought of settling and making their homes
there, as at New Plymouth and along the Alleghanies. The
popular idea was that Newfoundland was simply an 'out-
station for fishing and a nursery for sailors,' and the owners
and masters of ships were absolutely forbidden to carry
emigrants thither. The island was little better off than a
remote whaling-station might be in the South Pacific. The
profits of the cod fisheries went home and enriched the
merchants and capitalists in London and Bristol. With such
a migratory population coming and going every year, there
could be no settled form of government, no fixed society, no



52 British Colonisation

prosperous and self-supporting colony. In 1697, by the Treaty
of Ryswick, the French were left in undisturbed possession of
many places, and especially Placentia, which was naturally a
very strong vantage-ground. 1 By the Treaty of Utrecht, how-
ever, England in 1713 had closed once and for all the question
of sovereignty. The colonists themselves helped her by many
a gallant action to win the day against France, and it was won
first of all along the islands and peninsulas.

But the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), whilst it closed one question,
opened the door for another which has been a continual source of
irritation both to Newfoundland and Great Britain herself from
that day to this. At the time of this treaty, and subsequently
upon the occasion of the surrender of Quebec in 1763, Great
Britain could have swept the French fishermen off the Atlantic
waters. This would have been the natural corollary of the con-
quest of New France in the eighteenth century. The fisheries of
the ocean are of no use to fishermen who cannot procure bait, or
count upon a foothold close by to serve either as a harbour of
refuge, a drying-shed, or general depot. Great Britain, by de-
barring France from such a foothold, could have settled the
fisheries question once and for all.

But as the importance, probably, of the fisheries did not
appear so large in the eighteenth century as it does now, the
French were allowed to retain the adjoining small islands of
St. Pierre and Miquelon on the grounds of humanity. This
concession dates from the Treaty of Utrecht. Thrice after the
Peace of Utrecht these islands became the prize of war : first,
when they were captured in 1778 by a squadron under Admiral
Montague, in consequence chiefly of the privateering that was
carried on from them ; next, when ten years later, in the un-
settled times of the Revolution, they were seized by way of
precaution; and, lastly, in March 1804, when the tricolour
was replaced by the British flag. Great Britain, however,
missed her opportunity and restored them to France both by

1 The author's History of Newfoundland and the Dominion of Canada^
pp. 105-106.



Newfoundland 5 3

the Peace of Amiens and also by the Treaty of Paris in 1814.
It must be added that Great Britain also conceded France
certain shore rights on the coasts of Newfoundland itself
which have been the source of the greatest irritation.

The French shore rights have been clearly stated on a recent
occasion by Sir William Whiteway, the Premier of Newfound-
land x : ' We go back a period of nearly 200 years, and we find
that from 1713 to 1814 treaties were entered into between
Great Britain and France, under conditions of facts and cir-
cumstances very different from those which exist at the present
time. I would remind you, too, that at the periods to which
I refer the policy of the British Government and of the French
Government also was to send forth from their respective
countries fleets of fishing-vessels to fish on the coast and banks
of the island, and to bring back to their respective countries the
result of their labours. It was at that time, and up to seventy
or eighty years ago, prohibited for a master of a British vessel
to leave a single man of his crew on the island under a heavy
penalty : settlement was discouraged, almost prohibited. . . .
The masters of ships had first choice of a locality whereon to
cure and dry their fish before a resident dared make such
selection in the harbours. It was not until comparatively
recent years that grants of land could be made on the island,
the whole policy being to treat Newfoundland as a fishing-
station. ... It was not surprising that under these circum-
stances a concurrent right was given on a certain portion of
the coast to Frenchmen to fish in common with British sub-
jects, and to land during the fishing season and cure and dry
their fish upon the strand. In addition there were conceded
to France the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, on the south
coast of Newfoundland ; but in connection with these treaties
declarations were exchanged by the Kings of France and
England to the effect that, amongst other things, these islands
should be held really as a place of shelter for French fishermen,
and not be made an object of jealousy between the two nations.
1 Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institttte, vol. xxii.



54 British Colonisation

The declaration also provided, on the part of the King of
England, the French should not be interrupted by the com-
petition of the British fishermen. That is, concisely, the
condition of affairs at the present time. How have circum-
stances changed ? Newfoundland has become inhabited, and
St. Pierre and Miquelon, instead of being only a place of shelter
for French fishermen, have become a port from which the
fishing-vessels are fitted out to fish on the banks, and have
become a place of export for the produce of the fisheries.
Instead of these islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon being only
a place of shelter . . . they are now a centre from which
fisheries are carried on and smuggling is done. We have, on
the other hand, one lever by which we can meet the French.
There are two bays adjacent to St. Pierre and Miquelon
these bays being on the coast of Newfoundland which teem
with herring in the early part of the fishing-season. From
these two bays alone can the French obtain the bait to enable
them to prosecute the earlier fisheries. If we, then, can stop
their obtaining that bait, we materially interfere with the
prosecution of their fishing-voyages. We have been obliged
to adopt a course prohibitory to the supply of the bait because
the French have, by their enormous bounties, so inflated their
fisheries as to compete with us in foreign markets to the extent
of almost excluding our products from these markets. We say
to them fairly : " We will give you all the bait you require : give
as much bounty as you please to the fish consumed within
French possessions or in France ; but if you wish to fish on
banks which are common fishing-grounds to all the world, we
desire to fish with you on even terms. We will give you
sufficient bait for your purposes, but withdraw your bounties
from your fish exported to foreign countries ; if not, we will use
the most strenuous endeavours to prevent your obtaining that
bait which enables you to get the article in which you compete
with us in foreign markets in a way that drives us out of those
markets." ' This is so much of that vexed question that con-
cerns baits and bounties, and it is easy to see that under-



Newfoundland 5 5

lying the whole controversy there is a deep and essential
difference between the English and French Governments on
the first principles of commercial and fiscal policy. The
bounty system is no doubt an extravagant violation of Free
Trade and common fairness ; and as the French have succeeded
in dealing a blow to our West Indian sugar industry by means
of bounties, so here in the case of Newfoundland they seek
to cripple our colonial fisheries.

With regard to the question of the 700 miles of Newfound-
land coast, from Cape St. John to Cape Ray, the question
between French and British fishermen is still more complicated.
In this case there are territorial difficulties of a particularly irk-
some and vexatious character. By the declaration of the King
of England, British fishermen were not to interrupt the French
in the prosecution of their fisheries, and the French had the
right of landing for the purpose of curing and drying their fish.
'Now, the only fish,' Sir William Whiteway observes, 'which
can be cured and dried are cod, haddock, and ling. At all
events, at the times of the treaties the only fishery carried on
was the cod fishery, and I submit that the treaties referred to
the cod fisheries alone. ... I must describe how this fish is cured.
A small erection on the beach, extending generally a little out
of the water, is a place where the fish is split and salted. It
is then spread either on the beach or on what are termed flakes,
constructed of frames of poles with boughs spread over them,
along the shore. About 200 or 300 yards at most would afford
ample room for drying or curing the product of the voyage of any
one fishing-vessel. Would you, or could you, believe that under



Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 5 of 31)