Petition by Merchants of Bideford and Barnstaple 7 Feb 1726
National Archives - CO/194/8/191-192 Board of Trade Correspondence
We the severall Persons, Commanders of Ships whose are hereunder subscribed do severally and respectively make oath That the Contents of the Petitions hereunto annexed and the Alligations and Charges therein contained are realy and Bona fide true to all our own knowledge or of some or one of us.
Fur apud Bideford in Com. Devon
Decimo quinto die February Anno Domini 1726 Coram
Iur apud Barnstaple in Com. Devon
Decimo. Sept. die February Anno Domini 1726 Coram
The humble Petition of the Merch[an]ts. Commanders of ships & others of the Ports of Barnstaple and Bideford trading to Newfoundland espetially to Placentia.
We humbly beg leave to Apply our selves to your Honr. to Address the many Intollerable Grievances we Labour under on Account of the Arbitrary and Unjust dealings of Sam[ue]ll Glidhill, Esqr. Governor of Placensia who for several years have made great and is still making greater Incroachments on our Libertys & Propertys as will Appear by the following particulars, to the great hindrance & discouragement of the Newfoundland Fishery, A Trade which brings such great Revenues to the Crown and is so Advantageous a Nursery for sea-men. For he hath seized on all the best places for the washing & curing of Fish for his own use & to hire out, being severall large tracts of Land in Great & Little Placensia, and the places Adjacent, enough for the use of 16 Ships of one hundred Boats room, Nor know we where his Encroachm[en]ts will end. And all this he claims, under a vain pretence of Patents granted him by our Captains of Men of War and from the late [blank] And tho the first year our Ships fisht there we enjoy[e]d our rooms for curing Fish free of all demands, as is our undoubted right as English Men (Confirmed by Acts of Parliament) we only made the Governour a present, but now he demands and Exacts of us £15 for six Boates room, And threatens he will have more this next year. And those who will not comply with those Unjustifiable demands run the risque of spoiling their Fish and loosing their shallaways on which our Voyages depend: For their is no safe or convenient place left in Placensia but what he claims as his own, his Sons, or his Daughters, on the Aforesaid Pretensions. And, whereas by this Station he ought not to medle in Trade, on the Contrary to our great Disadvantage & Loss, he Endeavours by all means to Engross & Monopolize all sorts of Commoditys to himself, and advances the price double of the things which are most wanted and usefull for the Fishery. And those who know him and are Affraid to deal with him he often Insults, abuses, and Imprissons them and threatens to spoil their Marketts till he getts their Goods into his hands, then break his agreement with them, pays them less than Bargain[e]d for, and that in bad Fish (at a higher rate than the price Current) or in bad Bills on Persons in England who owe him nothing, And at the return of the Year when the said Bills go back protested he will not allow Interest or Charges of Protest, as is the Legal Custom of Merch[an]ts. But hath torn the Protest in peices & thrown it away & we are forced at last to take his Fish at his own price. He takes the same unjust way in selling his Merchandize as in Buying, breaking his Agreement when tis for his Advantage having the Law in his own hand. He also discourages all substantial & sober Planters & Others from settling there by his Arbitrary dealings, and Incourages none but those who will be his Vassals who generally keep Publick disorderly houses to the Debauching & Impoverish[ing] our Fishermen &c. And he Obliges the said houses to take his Liquors on his own terms. And if we deal with those People tis much the same as if we dealt with the Governour himself, for they transfer their Debts for him to pay, who takes up their Effects, & is the General Banker of the Town. And whereas we are Annually at great charge in building Stages & houses, which by Acts of Parliament ought to be preserv[e]d for the Conveniency and Incouragement of the early ships the succeeding year, he as soon as the said ships are gone Incourages his Garrison and others to Demolish the said Stages & Houses for the sake of their timber & Iron-work, of which great quantities are yearly sold to our selves, and New England Men, which are taken from the said Stages &c and from the houses of the Town, for he hath Demolished all the best houses except his own, ten times as many as are now standing. We were in hopes that some former Petitions Against him by particular sufferers woud have reform[e]d or remov[e]d him. But since they had not their desir[e]d effects we are strained humbly to beg your Honours Consideration on this Petition that our present griefs may be remedied.
[The above petition is presumably a draft of the one which, though itself undated, has a cover note dated 25 Feb 1727 (CO/194/8/23-36). This final version is virtually identical to the draft except that "French Possession" has been inserted at the position of the blank space, and the two sentences from "And tho. the first year our Ships fisht there we enjoy'd our rooms for curing Fish . . ." to ", , , what he claims as his own, his Sons, or his Daughters, on the Aforesaid Pretensions" have been omitted. However, there is a larger set of signatures, which are arranged in four columns as transcribed below:]
Brian Randell, 25 Apr 2007