Petition by Merchants of Bideford 1758

National Archives - CO/194/8/14/16 Board of Trade Correspondence

Transcribed by

Brian Randell



 Bideford Nov[embe]r 24th 1758
 May it Please yo[u]r Lordships,
 In Compliance with your Lordships Command of the 8th instant we the Principall Merchants and others trading to Newfoundland have met and humbly offer it our opinion, That in the present war the obstructions and difficultys we Labour under are the Taking of ships and high Provisions of Insurance.
2d.That for many years past we have filled and sent to the Island of Newfoundland from this Harbour Twenty five Sail of ships which Employ[e]d one Thousand men, At that time it was a very Advantageous Trade to the Adventurers and the Country in Generall, But for some years past Trade it decayed and sunk here to the Lowest Ebb.
3d.We never have had any Convoys appointed in this Channel for Convoying one Ship Early in the year for we would acquaint your Lordships, so that part of the Land which the Ships from these ports allways used: We are under great necessity of Sailing from hence by the 1st of March, And therefore was a Ship of War appointed for convoy at Milford Haven for that Purpose & It would be a Great Incouragement for an outset[?] to Newfoundland from this Channel in generall in time of warr.
4th.That the Trade in this Port hath been reduced by Impressing the Fishermen into his Majesties Service, tho under a Protection from the Admiralty, after advancing them large Sums of money for the Subsisting their Familys To the Great Disadvantage of the Adventurers.
5th.That the French have long been in Possession of Cape Breton St. Johns and their Dependancys hence to the River St Lawrence where the Fish Continually Lye, and the French Catch Great Quantities in winter as well as Summer.
6th.That the French have settled and make use of a great part of the northernmost part of Newfoundland where they catch great quantities of fish and make Great Voyages Every Year.
7th.That in time of Peace the French have Every Year Two or Three Hundred Sail of Ships on the Banks of Newfoundland where they catch Great quantities of Fish so that the English settled in Newfoundland (which is m..[?] in the Southernmost Parts thereof are in great measure Surrounded ...[?] the French who catch the Greatest part of the fish before it can ...[?] that part So settled by the English and as they have been very Industrious in Improving their Fish Trade for many Years past the same fishing ...? Greatly Improved and the Trade of the English in Proportion Dom...[?] To the Great Loss of many Merchants and Traders to Newfoundland, ...[?] many Parts of England (and in Particular to this Harbour) by making Loosing Voyages.
 And as your Lordships desire to have our opinion ...[?] the said Trade may be regained by the English, we do not Profess to be judges in what manner it may be wholly done But agreeable to your Lordships Commands we humbly offer our sentiments shewen and Th...[?]
 That as it hath pleased the Divine Providence to Crown his Majesties Arms with Success in the Conquest of Cape Breton, the Island of St John & dependencies, All which bring the best Fishing Ground (as before observed) and ...[?] our hands we hope will be incouraged and duly improved and the French not Suffered to have any footing in Newfoundland or any account whatsoever And we ...[?] hope we will soon see the Balance of the said Trade in our favour and ...[?] to supply those markets in spain & Italy which the Ferench have (in a man...[?] long since deprived us of and which markets we formerly used to Supply and regain ...[?] that Trade which will be of the Greatest Consequence to the Kingdom by Employing of many Thousands of men more than we now do (the same being a Naturall Nursery for Seamen.)
 with Great respect
 We are                                                   My Lords
 Your Lordships most Devoted
 and obedient Servants


Thos. Spencer
S...[?] Banbury
John Stafford
Humphrey Baker
Josias Wren
Jno. Wheifield
Robt. Maine
Wm. Mill
Saml. Pyke
E. Smith
Jas. Hopkins
Samll. Adams
John Reed
Wm. Buck, Mayor
Geo. Buck
John Ford
Thomas Hogg
Hen. Young

[The missing pieces of text in the final paragraphs of the petition are due to the last few letters of each line not being readable, at least in the photographs used for this transcription.]

Brian Randell, 25 Apr 2007