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Colonial Office Records
Excerpts from 1768 - 1821



From the Secretary of State to the governor and vice-admirals of Nfld.

Note: These items may not reflect the total entry in the colonial office records, but are portions to reflect what can be found in these records and may be used as a tool in Newfoundland's Genealogy and History.


Letters from the Secretary of State

1790 - The establishment of a judge and courthouse. There will be the right of appeal if the amount involved is over £ 100. This appointment will be made by the Governor.

1791 - Trial of Cornelius Bryan for the murder of Henry Brooks. The circumstances of the jurisdiction were unclear. The case was ordered brought to England for investigation.

1792 - Sir Richard King-Knight was governor and commander-in-chief.
Each year, authorization was given to import bread, flour and Indian cord from the U.S. in British ships owned by British subjects.

July 1793 - the surrender of the islands of St. Pierre and Miguilon. >From Whitehall to Gov. King; "You shall likewise lose no time in dislodging the French from such parts of the island of Newfoundland as they may reside in or resort to in consequence of the Treaties which subsist between the British Majesty and the late most Christian King and in making capture both of them and their efforts." Henry Dundas

1793 - Rev. M. Harris is the Anglican missionary at St. John's. He is paid £ 50 a year.

£ 1232 were granted by the House of Commons to the Civil Establishment of Newfoundland for the period of 1 Apr. 1795-1 Apr. 1796.

1794 - Sir James Wallace Knight was Gov. of Nfld.

Jan 1795 - The merchants from Poole stated that there is very insufficent quantity of bread and flour and they are authorized to import it from the U.S. immediately to prevent starvation.

May, 1796 - ...."by staying behind themselves, and encouraging the men they employ to do the same to the injury of His Majesty's service by preventing their becoming seamen, and returning to serve in the Navy. To prevent as much as possible the further progress of this growing evil. I am to direct you to exert your viligence and authority in enforcing the Provisions of the Act of Parliament in this behalf and to take such other means as you shall upon the spot judge to be most effective for discouraging a practice so detrimental to the navigation of this country.
Signed by the Duke of Portland.

June 1790 - Mr. Cole, chief justice resigned and was replaced by Mr. Routh. He was subject to gout so was allowed to return each autumn. The note was made that Newfoundland was "beginning to partake more of a permanent settlement than of a temporary Fishery as originally viewed by the legislature in framing such laws as were deemed best adapted for its nature and situation" signed by the Duke of Portland.

1798 - Mr. Coffin was the sole proprietor of the Magdellan Islands.

9 June 1806 - from Gower to Sr. Stephen Cottrell suggests alterations to the law regarding the 2 most important points of Nfld. policy (l) encouragement of the British ship fishery; (2) return of the fishermen the "right of inhabitants to lease, mortgage and sell their fishing rooms" was being questioned.
regarding religion - more than 1/2 the inhabitants were RC so a small allowance toward the support of a few more missionaries of the established church was to be given the government was still there only seasonally. A permanent secretary was not changed with each government.

16 May 1807 to Gower, Nfld. was becoming more dependent on the U.S. for imports and the British were getting worried. It did not wish to increase the number of permanent residents - "encourage the floating fishery".
The salary of the master of the boys school at St. John's was increased to £ 60 per annum.
"Upon the representation of the circumstances which have appeared in the case of Patrick Roche, His Majesty has been graciously pleased to approve of your intention of discharging him" (Castlereagh)
Application from Lt. Col Murray and Mr. McDonald for grants of land - "application not be complied with at present"

6 June 1807 - to Vice Admiral Holloway, appt. as governor and commander in chief.
The enclosed letter "will inform you of the steps which have been taken for sending back Thomas Shea to Nfld to be delivered up to the civil power"
Gower wished Nfld to become a colony and change many things The fishing rooms, the legislature endeavored to preserve,"are for the most part become or presumed to be the property of individuals." St. John's now a considerable town with valuable warehouses and stores, costing owners £ 10 to 12,000. There were more than 20,000 resident inhabitants. Potatoes and a few other vegetables were the only articles cultivated with success. "The alteration which is considered by the Governor of an urgent nature that which relates to his being authorized to grant leases of the vacant ship rooms....."
Instructed to make surveys from Cape Bonavista to St. John's. Gower wanted to increase the number of public houses to 36 Worried about attack; wants stronger military establishment.
"It would rather enable the Inhabitants who are a hardy race accustomed to the use of firearms and traversing the woods the better to make a resistance which they have already shown their disposition to do by forming themselves into volunteer companies at St. John's amounting to near 300 men."

6 Oct. 1807 - among the £ 1865 granted for the civil establishment of Nfld., "allowance to John Ogden, Esq., late chief justice in consideration of his long service and of his infirm state of health - £ 200 . To Rev. O"Donnel - "Romish clergyman in consideration of his important and patriotic services" - £ 50 pounds. To 5 other missionaries - £ 50 each.

15 Feb. 1808 - Date of grant uncertain - to Mr. Brown as surrogate of Placentia £ 266 from E. Cooke

10 June 1808 - included in the instruction to the governor: "I approve of your allowing £ 20 for the salary of a female assistant to the school house at St. John's out of the lease fund" "I also approve of your granting from the same fund, £ 50 to the Protestant inhabitants at Fogo for completing the house they have erected for divine worship and of allowing £ 15 a year to the missionary who performs services there."
To Thomas Cooke? £ 100 for making a description of the possessions held by the inhabitants of St. John's.
To Mr. Chancey - £ 25 pounds, late clerk of surrogate court.
Signed by Castelreagh

1804 - "His Majesty has been graciously pleased to extend his mercy to James Brown whose case you had represeanted on condition of his being transported for Life and I am to desire you will give directions that he be conveyed to England in order that he may be send with other convicts to New South Wales." He was a captain's clerk; ?crime; case was sent to England to be evaluated.

Mar. 1805 - to Gower - He was authorized to give an annual allowance of £ 50 to Dr. O'Donnel, the Catholic clergyman at St. J. Also £ 50 each to 5 missionaries. Mr. Brown was one of them.

Mar. 1806 - £ 2565 were to be provided for Nfld; including £ 700 to build a house for Dr. O'Donnel.

There are several pages of index followed by:

#16 Nfld. 1801 - 1813 Letters from the Secretary of State

1801 - Instructions to James Gambier, Vice Admiral of the White Squadron of our Fleet. There are over 20 on various subjects. These are repeated every year to the acting governemnt. I only include a few which interested me.

The Treaty of Utrecht in 1802 granted St. Pierre and Miguelon to the French "full and ample enjoyment of the fishery" including around St. J. and north of the city. "Take due care that no French citizens be permitted to reside or remain in any part whatsoever of the said Island of Newfoundland after the fishing season is over and during the winter..."

    The salmon market is important to Italy and is to be protected.
    Get along with the Indians and if anyone kills an Indian, he is to be brought to justice.
    John Agnew of Shenahemin Wigton in north Britain has the rights to copper mining.
    Don't kill the birds just for their feathers.
    Crimes of treason will be sent to England for trial.
    Religious freedom was granted.
"and whereas the immoderate use of Liquors has been found to be pernicious to the Health and Morals of our subjects dwelling in and resorting to Nfld. for the purpose of carrying on the Fishery and has been the cause that the Fishermen have expanded a considerable part of their wages you are not to allow in any part of your Government more Public Houses than may be necessary for the accommadation and supply of our said subjects and particularly in the Town of St. John's the number of such Public Houses is on no account to exceed 24. And it is our Will and Pleasure that every Person who shall be allowed to keep a public house within your Government do give full and ample security for his or her good behaviour and that every person helping such Public House shall keep and employ in the Fishery one shallop at least."

Rules of morality prevail. The Lord's Day is be be observed and the Book of Common prayer is to be read each Sunday.

"Highest improtance to the Naval Power that seamen and fishermen shall return anually at the end of the season..." "...discourage practice of residents to retain said seamen under the name and description of Dieters" (some deserted to the U.S.)

The above was signed by George R @ Court of St. James, 27 May, 1802, in the 42nd year of his reign.

(note: a dieter was a man who remained in the island during the winter without engaging himself as a winter servant.)

1 May, 1802 - £ 1875 voted for the civil establishment (1Jan-31 Dec. 1802)

    Governor's salary - £ 500
    secretary's salary - £ 182
    judge of admirility - £ 200
    St. J. missionary - £ 50
    naval officer - £ 200
    sheriff - £ 182
    2 other missionaries - £ 50 each
    repair of church at Trinity - £ 160
    rebuild courthouse and gaol - £ 200
    audit fees - £ 100
    agent - £ 100

April/1804 - response to the complaint made "unprotected state of the town of St. John's"

14 June, 1809 - "As you have properly reduced the composition for rations allowed to the volunteers at Nfld. to sixpence per man, I am to authorize you to hold out to them for the present year the allowance on their days of drill which is stated in my letter of June last."
Mr. Carter was given £ 100 for making a survey and registration of "ancient fishing rooms."
"You are also authorized to advance £ 100 for the purchase of a jail at Bay of Bulls to be charged to the District Account of St. John's."
There is a claim of a Mr. Cramer for the subsistance of 2 deserters and for procuring payment of a sum due to him by the Nova Scotia regiment. This was referred back to the regiment.
The Governor had asked for a raise and was granted it (£ 500 to £800's)
The above was sent by Castlereagh

6 June, 1810 to Vice-Admiral Duckworth - The appt. of John Holloway as governor and commander-in-chief of Nfld. Signed by George R.

5 May, 1810 - Instructions to Sir Richard Goodwin-Keats, Admiral of the Blue Squadron of our fleet and commander-in-chief of Nfld. Instruction #11 - "You are to use your best endeavours to encourage a Friendly Intercourse with the Indians residing in our Island of Newfoundland or resorting thither using your best Endeavours to conciliate their affections so as to induce them to trade with our subjects and in order to prevent any improper conduct toward them, you are as soon after as your arrival as conveniently may be to cause a proclamation in our name to be published and dispersed throughout our said Island of Newfoundland and parts adjacent strictly enjoining and requiring all our subjects to live in amnity and kindness with the said Indians and commanding and requiring all officers and magistrates to maintain and support good order and behaviour toward them and in case any person or persons shall murder or commit any outrage upon any of the said Indians you and the said magistrates are to use your utmost endeavours to apprehend and bring to justice such offenders. You are also to obtain the best account you are able to of the number of the said Indians the places they usually frequent for trading the countries from whence they came the nature and extent of the trade that is or may be carried on with them and how far the same may be extended and improved."

22 June 1811 - Mr. Lionel Chancey made a survey of lands at St. John's and was paid £25.

"It is advised that you will immediately comply with the request which has been made to you by the R.C. bishop that the R.C. Church may be allowed the same right which that of Nova Scotia possesses of burying its own dead."
Monies alloted:

    improvement of church at St. John's £250 Trinity - repair to church - £80 Greenspond (£200 had been contributed by the residents) jail at Burin - £100 church at Fortune Bay - £200 if the residents raise £300

The merchants of St. John's had made many complaints against the Chief Justice and Duckworth was to find the "truth of these charges"

28 June, 1811 - "...pardon which His Royal Highness the Prince Regent has been graciously pleased to grant to Matthew Read under the particular circumstances of the case. I am at the same time to acquaint you that I concur entirely in the opinion of Mr. Ryder expressed in this letter that the prisoner has been guilty of a very aggrevated misdeameanor and that it is advisable that the prisoner should be prosecuted accordingly for the assault stated in the Evidence to have been made by him upon the other Boy (Cowell) Signed by Liverpool

30 Nov. 1811 - Before next year's allowance is sent the Prince Regent wants to know: What was the length of Mr. Ogden's survey? What were the services of the Rev. Dr. O'Donnel?

24 Ded. 1811 - Duckworth had asked for "species" (translated as spices?). He was "embarrassed at the lack of species" Robert Peel said he would send some. Also said he would send some furniture for government house.

21 March, 1812 - Duckworth had sent a letter requesting instructions: " of Samuel Barnes having been referred for the consideration of His Majesty, as Secretary of State for the Home Dept., I am directed by the Earl of Liverpool to enclose for your information and guidance the copy of a letter which had been written by the desire of Mr. Ryder stating the mode of proceeding in the event of the Prisoners being convicted of the crime to his charge. Signed, Peel

1812 - £3971's granted for civil administration. The school master got £25; the missionaries each £50 and Dr. O'Donnel - £70

24 Apr. 1812 - Mr. Andrews was deputy judge advocate of 2 court martials.

6 June 1812 - Duckworth was about to leave for Nfld. and was asking for guidance on a number of points. This answer is from Liverpool: "I have perused with much interest the narrative of the proceedings of Lieut. Buchan and his party in endeavouring to effect a communication with the native Indians and I trust that when the attempt which or when fails shall be renewed it will be crowned with that sucess which the perseverance and ability of Lt. Buchan and his party appear to have fully ...?"
There was a complaint against Chief Justice (Mr. Houston) and Duckworth will investigate.
"I have learnt with much satisfaction that the Burden of the Island of Newfoundland laid upon the mother country will be considerably diminished in consequence of the revenues which will be receivd in future years from the leases of the vacant spaces called Ships Rooms."
An allowance was given for erecting a church at Fortune Bay (£400) provided the inhabitants contributed £800 ; £125 for a gaol at Burin; £ 20 to Brigus and ?Morton's Harbour for churches.
"If the inhabitants of St. John's shall raise such a sum of money as may afford a prospect that the proposed hospital will be immediately erected, you are authorized to contribute out of the balance of rents in your hands such part thereof as you may think proper in the aid of this establishment."
An allowance to Mr. Charles Hellings for performing divine survice at Fogo; also to ?Stephenson and Haskins.
Duckworth's proposal for erecting a goel for debtors was refused. He said if needed, the citizens should pay for it.

13 June 1812 - There were charges against the Chief Justice, John Reeves, Esq. It seems he rec'd his salary after he was no longer chief justice. He denied it.

25 June 1812 - The merchants had asked for ships guns. It was granted. "...the guns and ammunition so exported be employed only for the purpose of arming vessels furnished with licences from you."

July 5, 1812 - Britain was still granting licences for the importation of bread.

Nov. 13, 1812 - Mr. John Dougan? made agent for Newfoundland.

1813 - £ 4002 were granted for the civil administration of Nfld.

Sir Richard Goodwin-Keats was the vice-admiral of the Blue Squadron. In the instructions given was the following: #26
"You shall use your best endeavours to obtain an accurate account of the number of persons resorting in each season to our Island of Newfoundland and the said islands adjacent, distinguishing those who shall arrive from the Ports of Great Britain and Ireland respectively and from Guernsey Jersey distinguishing also such are seasem from passengers and those who continue to reside there all the year and the number of Roman Catholics and Protestants with the number of ministers of each religion respectively together with the number of places of worship and of schools belonging to each with the best account you can obtain of the funds for the maintenance of the same and the number of births, marriages and burials in every year. You are likewise to obtain an account of the British Sack Ships and Fishing ships and of their tonnage that annually arrive at the Harbour under your Government and sail fo the different markets either foreign or British..."

7 April, 1813 - Mr. Knight has a lease and wants to purchase same. (from Bathurst)

7 April, 1813 - "HRH approved augmentation of the volunteers." Capt. McBraine was made a major. Gen. Moore was officer in command of the troops.
"I am not aware of any objection to the proposed grant of 20 acres to be attached to the church for the use of the missionary for the time being.."

9 April, 1813 - transfer of Mr. Tremlett as chief justice to PEI and of Mr. Colelough from PEI to Newfloundland. Charges were soon made against Colelough buy Mr. Roubel (attorney) and he was given a chance to explain.

18 March, 1814 - To Keats from Henry Goulburn: "I am directed by Lord Bathurst to transmit to you an application which he has received for a grant of a piece of ground in the Township of St. John's for the purpose of erecting a chapel for the use of the Society and People called Methodists and I am to request that you will favor Lord Bathurst with your opinion thereupon."

1 April, 1814 - (Keats was having trouble with the corps of volunteers) "The deficiency of persons qualified to give religious instruction in the colony is a subject of most serious regret. No effort shall be wanting on my part which can by holding out additional inducement to meritorious persons secure the residence of a greater number of Protestant Missionaries and I am in hopes that the improved and improving state of the Colony will in itself remove many of the objections which respectable persons have felt to establishing themselves permanently there. The respectability of the Head of the Catholic Church also entitles the Gentleman who fills the situation of the Bishop to some renumeration and HRH has been pleased to direct that you should pay to Dr. Lambert whilst holding that office an annual allowance of £ 75 per annum. I am sorry that the allowance which was proposed by Sir Duckworth to the gentleman who read Prayers at Bay Roberts and Bonaventure should not have received my sanction at an earlier period. It was certainly the intention of His Majesty's Government to continue to them that allowance as long as they were called upon to execute the duty and you will accordingly pay it either from the Government rents or the Shipping Rooms account as you may consider it most advisable."
Mr. Gill, Stewart and Rennie .."authorized to abondon in their favor the Rights of the Crown in Admirals Beach and Darkers Room." Mr. Crawford is permitted to build houses for the purposes he has submitted.
"I cannot conclude this dispatch without commending to you the satisfaction which HRH has derived from your account of the improved tranquility and increased prosperity of the Colony and assuring you that HRH attributes it in no small degree to the prudence and firmness which you have displayed in executing the Trust which has been committed to your care. (from Bathurst)

May 1815 - pamphlets of a "libelous tendency" to injure the character of the Chief Justice (Colelough) have come from parts of London and he wished to make known that thay were false. (Bathurst)

May 1815 - 5000 L were granted for the civil expenses; including "to the society for the Propagation of the gospel in the aid of the expanse of the Society in Newfoundland" - £ 1000 The schoolmaster got £ 25.

8 May 1815 - to Keats "Lt. Gen. Sir John Sherbrooke has been instructed to station a force in Newfoundland as will maintain tranquility in the Island." ...."in consequence of Events in England", Keats is to proceed to the Island of St. Pierre and Miquelon and take possession but to assure them it is only temporary.

17 June 1815 - following the treaty of peace with the U.S., there is a long letter regarding the rights of the U.S. to fish as before under the treaty of 1783.

    In the instructions given before leaving for Newfoundland, Bathurst included, "You will also in the event of any vessels arriving on the coasts of Newfoundland from the Ports of France whether for purposes connected with the Fishery or not, consider them as the vessels of an Enemy."

Nov. 1815 to Keats (in Devon) "Postmaster at Halifax has been called upon to explain why the letters for Newfoundland from this country have not been forwarded with regularity and that orders have been given to make up as you have suggested, the letters in question in a separated bag."

20 Feb. 1816 - Return of the islands of St. Pierre and Miguelon to the French government.

2 July 1816 - "numerous sufference in consequence of the late destructive fire at St. John's."

May 1816 - Francis Forbes, Esq. was Chief Justice of Nfld.

22 Jan. 1817 - To Pickmore "You will inform me whether you are enabled to furnish without a .... to Newfoundland the minutes of the trial of James Lewis Hill and Stephen Lambert as it is supposed they must be discharged for want of authority to carry their sentence into execution in this country." (Goulburn)

25 Feb. 1817 - "His lordship (Bathurst) does not consider the Rev. Dr. Lambert entitled to the allowance of £ 75 per annum except when residing in Newfoundland as head of the Romish Church."

19 April 1817 - "I am directed by Earl Bathurst to transmit to you the enclosed memorial of Mr. Lewis Desmond praying the payment of 116.15.6, the amount of expense sustained by him in consequence of the refusal of the authorities at Newfoundland to allow the passengers from the Brig Concord to be landed there and I am to request that you will favor Lord Bathurst with your report on the circumstances of the case." (Goulburn)

1 June 1817 - (to Pickmore) " should immediately upon your arrival in Newfoundland take measures for ascertaining those parts of the Island in which cultivation is most likely to be attended with success and that you should proceed to make granting the land to any individuals who may be desirous or willing to engage in this cultivation taking care always that the grants made be not beyond the means of the individual to cultivate." (Bathurst)

24 June 1817 - (in response to a dispatch by Pickmore) "..with respect to the removal of the surplus population of Newfoundland as reccommended by you Lord Bathurst does not feel that he can with any degree of justice impose upon the public the charge of removing from the Island so large a number of persons who have proceeded to the Island without any permission on the part of His Majesty's government nor can he at present authorize you to take any measures for this...." (Goulburn)

12 July 1817 - "severe distress" To alleviate the suffering of the lower classes....."In applying however either money or provisions to the relief of the lower orders it will be far more beneficial to the community that they should be bestoyed on those only who are employed in useful labor and if the status of the people should during the winter be such as to require assistance I have to desire that you will let the employment rather than the gratuitous relief of the poor be the object of your particular attention." (Bathurst) (He realized that this sounded a little harsh so he added)..."great necessity may arise and I should be fully informed that they can't get relief in any other way."

20 July 1817 - to Col. King "..distress prevailing at Newfoundland last Dec....." supplies were given from the military stores. Asked that an account be sent of what was given out and it will be replaced. (Goulburn)

30 Jan. 1818 - to Pickmore..
"I am happy to observe that your attention has been so early directed to the adaption of some regulations which may prevent in the event of another Fire that extent of calamnity which has recently overwhelmed the colony. (Bathurst)

17 June 1818 - Bathurst paid Capt. Bowker for the interment of Adm. Pickmore. Bowker became acting governor, succeeded by Hamilton.

15 Oct. 1818 - to Hamilton

    "I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch of 28 Aug. last stating your intention to release two American fishing vessels detained for fishing on the Colony of Newfoundland and to acquaint you that I entirely approve of the line of proceeding which under a correct ... of the view of His Majesty's government you have adopted in this case.


9 Nov. 1818 - Mr. Thomas Coote (Chief Magistrate) to retire.

Feb. 1819 - to Hamilton a grant of land in St. John's to Mr. Stewart who already has a house there.

8 Feb. 1819 -Hamilton had reduced the ship room rents last November for 1818 and Bathurst approved this measure.

18 Mar. 1819 - Goulborn asked for a certificate of death of Jeanne Dessain Carpentier born in St. Pierre. She died 22 March 1816.

Apr. 1819 to Hamilton In an agreement between Europe and the U.S., the U.S. can't fish closer than 3 miles except in the Magdellan Islands. The right to dry and cure fish is limited to unsettled bays, harbors, and creeks on the southern coast. (Bathurst)

8 May 1819 - exchange of a piece of land on King's Beach for land belonging to Mr. Todridge adjourning the Ordinance Yard. Bathurst wants to know the value.

11 May, 1819 £ 5976 for the civil establishment

21 May, 1819 - Thomas Rendell is the naval officer in Newfoundland entrusted with the deputation for the appointment of officials in the out harbors.

10 June 1819 - Newfoundland wants a whale Fishery and asked for a bounty. The Lordships said "no"

20 Aug. 1819 (to Hamilton) "...distressing occurance of a very destructive fire on the 19 July by which a number of houses in the town of St. John's and much property has been consumed and I am commanded to express to you the regret felt by HRH in account of the suffering to which the inhabitants of St. John's are by this further calamnity again exposed." People had to give up land so the streets could be widened. Bathurst asked for names so they could be compensated.

30 Nov. 1819 (to Hamilton) .."improper conduct of Mr. Dawe" (notary public). The governor had made the appointment but he had no right to do so.

Jan 1820 - Capt. Buchan was talking to the Indians and trying to negotiate with them.

8 Jan. 1820 - grants to Mr. Eaststaff of two small lots were taken away from him and became part of Gower Street.

Mar. 1820 - Capt. Keene had a building erected by Mr. Toby and it was pulled down by ordinance of a magistrate. Bathurst wants to know the details. Other names mentioned: Noble, Carter, Rendell as surrogates.

Dec. 1820 - A seal will be made for use within the island of Newfoundland. It was the will of the King.

Jan 1821 - Walter (M)Bransfield was convicted of manslaughter in Newfloundland and was set free as the Court had no power to imprison him.

Mar. 1821 - response to a petition from Newfoundland wanting an independant legislature. It was rejected "not capable"



Contributed by Claire Nault (1998)

Page Revised by Craig Peterman (February 2004)

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