A letter to M. Richard Hakluyt of the middle Temple, conteining a report of the true state and commodities of Newfoundland, by M. Anthonie Parkhurst Gentleman, 1578.
Master Hakluyt, after most heartie commendations, with like thankes for your manifold kindnesse to me shewed, not for any merits that hitherto haue been mine, but wholly proceeding, I must needs confesse, of your owne good nature, which is so ready prest to benefit your countrey and all such poore men as haue any sparke in them of good desires, that you do not onely become their friend, but also humble your selfe as seruant in their affaires: for which I would to God I were once in place where I might cause your burning zeale to bee knowen to those that haue authoritie, power, and abilitie to recompense your trauelling mind and pen, wherewith you cease not day nor night to labour and trauell to bring your good and godly desires to some passe, though not possibly to that happy ende that you most thirst for: for such is the malice of wicked men the deuils instruments in this our age, that they cannot suffer any thing (or at least few) to proceed and prosper that tendeth to the setting forth of Gods glory, and the amplifying of the Christian faith, wherein hitherto princes haue not bene so diligent as their calling required. Alas, the labourers as yet are few, the haruest great, I trust God hath made you an instrument to increase the number, and to mooue men of power, to redeeme the people of Newfoundland and those parts from out of the captiuitie of that spirituall Pharao, the deuil.
Now to answer some part of your letter touching the sundrie nauies that come to Newfoundland, or Terra noua, for fish: you shal vnderstand that some fish not neere the other by 200. leagues, and therefore the certaintie is not knowen; and some yeres come many more then other some, as I see the like among vs: who since my first trauell being but 4. yeeres, are increased from 30. sayle to 50 which commeth to passe chiefly by the imagination of the Westerne men, who thinke their neighbours haue had greater gaines then in very deed they haue, for that they see me to take such paines yeerely to go in proper person: they also suppose that I find some secret commoditie by reason that I doe search the harbors, creekes and hauens, and also the land much more then euer any Englishman hath done. Surely I am glad that it so increaseth, whereof soener it springeth. But to let this passe, you shall vnderstand that I am informed that there are aboue 100. saile of Spaniards that come to take Cod (who make all wet, and do drie it when they come home) besides 20. or 30. more that come from Biskaie to kill Whale for Traine. These be better appoynted for shipping and furniture of munition then any nation sauing the Englishmen, who commonly are lords of the harbors where they fish, and doe vse all strangers helpe in fishing if need require, according to an old custome of the countrey, which thing they do willingly, so that you take nothing from them more then a boate or twaine of salte, in respect of your protection of them from rouers or other violent intruders, who do often put them from good harbor, &c. As touching their tunnage, I thinke it may be neere fiue or sixe thousand tunne. But of Portugals there are not lightly aboue 50 saile, and they make all wet in like sorte, whose tunnage may amount to three thousand tuns, and not vpwarde. Of the French nation and Britons, are about one hundred and fiftie sailes, the most of their shipping is very small, not past fortie tonnes, among which some are great and reasonably well appointed, better then the Portugals, and not so well as the Spaniards, and the burden of them may be some 7000. tunne. Their shipping is from all parts of France and Britaine, and the Spaniards from most parts of Spaine, the Portugals from Auiero92 And Viana93 and from 2. or 3. ports more. The trade that our nation hath to Island maketh, that the English are not there in such numbers as other nations. The fertility of Newfoundland. Now to certifie you of the fertilitie and goodnesse of the countrey, you shall vnderstand that I haue in sundry places sowen Wheate, Barlie, Rie, Oates, Beanes, Pease and seedes of herbes, kernels, Plumstones, nuts, all which haue prospered as in England. The countrey yeeldeth many good trees of fruit, as Filberds in some places, but in all places Cherie trees, and a kind of Pearetree meet to graffe on. As for roses, they are as common as brambles here: Strawberies, Dewberies, and Raspis, as common as grasse. The timber is most Firre, yet plentie of Pineapple trees: fewe of these two kinds meete to maste a ship of threescore and ten: But neere Cape Briton, and to the Southward, big and sufficient for any ship. There be also Okes and thornes, there is in all the countrey plentie of Birch and Alder, which be the meetest wood for cold, and also willow, which will serue for many other purposes. Seueral sortes of fish. As touching the kindes of Fish beside Cod, there are Herrings, Salmons, Thornebacke, Plase, or rather wee should call them Flounders, Dog fish, and another most excellent of taste called of vs a Cat, Oisters, and Muskles, in which I haue found pearles aboue 40. in one Muskle, and generally all haue some, great or small. I heard of a Portugall that found one woorth 300. duckets: There are also Called by Spaniards Anchouas, and by the Portugals Capelinas. other kinds of Shel-fish, as limpets, cockles, wilkes, lobsters, and crabs: also a fish like a Smelt which commeth on shore, and another that hath like propertie, called a Squid: there be the fishes, which (when I please to bee merie with my olde companions) I say doe come on shore when I commaund them in the name of the 5 ports, and coniure them by such like words: These also bee the fishes which I may sweepe with broomes on a heape, and neuer wet my foote, onely two or three wordes whatsoeuer they be appointed by any man, so they heare my voyce: the vertue of the wordes be small, but the nature of the fish great and strange. For the Squid, whose nature is to come by night as by day, I tell them, I set him a candle to see his way, with which he is much delighted, or els commeth to wonder at it as doth our fresh water fish, the other commeth also in the night, but chiefly in the day, being forced by the Cod that would deuoure him, and therefore for feare comming so neare the shore, is driuen drie by the surge of the sea on the pibble and sands. Of these being as good as a Smelt you may take vp with a shoue net as plentifully as you do Wheat in a shouell, sufficient in three or four houres for a whole Citie. There be also other fishes which I tell those that are desirous of stange newes, that I take as fast as one would gather vp stones, and them I take with a long pole and hooke. Yea marrie say they, wee beleeue so, and that you catch all the rest you bring home in that sort, from Portugals and Frenchmen. No surely, but thus I doe: with three hookes stretched foorth in the ende of a pole, I make as it were an Eele speare, with which I pricke these Flounders as fast as you would take vp fritters with a sharpe pointed sticke, and with that toole I may take vp in lesse then halfe a day Lobsters sufficient to finde three hundred men for a dayes meate. This pastime ended, I shewe them that for my pleasure I take a great Mastiue I haue, and say no more then thus: Goe fetch me this rebellious fish that obeyeth not this Gentleman that commeth from Kent and Christendome, bringing them to the high water marke, and when hee doubteth that any of those great Cods by reason of sheluing ground bee like to tumble into the Sea againe, hee will warily take heede and carrie him vp backe to the heape of his feilowes. This doeth cause my friendes to wonder, and at the first hearing to iudge them notorious lies, but they laugh and are merrie when they heare the meanes howe each tale is true.
I told you once I doe remember how in my trauaile into Africa and America, I found trees that bare Oisters which was strange to you, till I tolde you that their boughes hung in the water, on which both Oisters and Muskies did sticke fast, as their propertie is, to stakes and timber.94
Nowe to let these merrie tales passe, and to come to earnest matters againe, you shall vnderstand, that Newfoundland is in a temperate Climate, and not so colde as foolish Mariners doe say, who finde it colde sometimes when plentie of Isles of yce lie neere the shore: but vp in the land they shall finde it hotter then in England in many parts of the countrey toward the South. This colde commeth by an accidental meanes, as by the yce that commeth fleeting from the North partes of the worlde, and not by the situation of the countrey, or nature of the Climate. The countrey is full of little small riuers all the yeere long proceeding from the mountains, ingendred both of snow and raine: few springs that euer I could finde or heare of, except it bee towards the South: in some places or rather in most places great lakes with plentie of fish, the countrey most couered with woods of firre, yet in many places indifferent good grasse, and plentie of Beares euery where, so that you may kill of them as oft as you list: their flesh is as good as yong beefe, and hardly you may know the one from the other if it be poudred but two dayes. Of Otters we may take like store. There are Sea Guls, Murres, Duckes, wild Geese, and many other kind of birdes store, too long to write, especially at one Island named Penguin, where wee may driue them on a planke into our ship as many as shall lade her. These birdes are also called Penguins, and cannot flie, there is more meate in one of these then in a goose: the Frenchmen that fish neere the grand baie, doe bring small store of flesh with them, but victuall themselues alwayes with these birdes. Nowe againe, for Venison plentie, especially to the North about the grand baie, and in the South neere Cape Race, and Pleasance: there are many other kinds of beasts, as Luzarnes and other mighty beastes like to Camels in great likenesse, and their feete were clouen, I did see them farre off not able to discerne them perfectly, but their steps shewed that their feete were clouen, and bigger then the feete of Camels, I suppose them to bee a kind off Buffes which I read to bee in the countreyes adiacent, and very many in the firme land. There bee also to the Northwards, Hares, and Foxes in all parts so plentifully, that at noone dayes they take away our flesh before our faces within lesse then halfe a paire of buts length, where foure and twentie persons were turning of drie fish, and two dogs in sight, yet stoode they not in feare till wee gaue shot and set the dogs vpon them: the Beares also be as bold, which will not spare at midnight to take your fish before your face, and I beleeue assuredly would not hurt any bodie vnlesse they be forced.
Nowe to showe you my fancie what places I suppose meetest to inhabite in those parts discouered of late by our nation: There is neere about the mouth of the grand Bay, an excellent harbour called of the Frenchmen Chasteaux,95 and one Island in the very entrie of the streight called Bell Isle,96 which places if they be peopled and well fortified (as there are stones and things meete for it throughout all Newfoundland) wee shall bee lordes of the whole fishing in small time, if it doe so please the Queenes Maiestie, and from thence send wood and cole with all necessaries to Labrador lately discouered: but I am of opinion, and doe most stedfastly beleeue that we shall finde as rich Mines in more temperate places and Climates, and more profitable for fishing then any yet we haue vsed, where wee shall haue not farre from thence plentie of salt made vndoubtedly, and very likely by the heate of the Sunne, by reason I find salt kerned on the rockes in nine and fortie and better: these places may bee found for salte in three and fortie. I know more touching these two commodities last remembred then any man of our nation doeth; for that I haue some knowledge in such matters, and haue most desired the finding of them by painefull trauaile, and most diligent inquirie. Now to be short, for I haue bene ouer long by Master Butlers means, who cryed on mee to write at large, and of as many things as I call to minde woorthy of rembrance: wherefore this one thing more. I could wish the Island in the mouth of the riuer of Canada97 should be inhabited, and the riuer searched, for that there are many things which may rise thereof as I will shew you hereafter. I could find in my heart to make proofe whether it be true or no that I haue read and heard of Frenchmen and Portugals to bee in that riuer, and about Cape Briton. I had almost forgot to speake of the plentie of wolues, and to shew you that there be foxes, blacke, white and gray: other beasts I know none saue those before remembered. I found also certain Mines of yron and copper in S. Iohns, and in the Island of Yron, which might turne to our great benefite, if our men had desire to plant thereabout, for proofe whereof I haue brought home some of the oare of both sortes. And thus I ende, assuring you on my faith, that if I had not beene deceiued by the vile Portugals descending of the Iewes and Iudas kinde, I had not failed to haue searched this riuer, and all the coast of Cape Briton, what might haue bene found to haue benefited our countrey: but they breaking their bands, and falsifying their faith and promise, disappointed me of the salte they should haue brought me in part of recompence of my good seruice in defending them two yeeres against French Rouers, that had spoyled them, if I had not defended them.
By meanes whereof they made me lose not onely the searching of the countrey, but also forced mee to come home with great losse aboue 600. li. For recompence whereof I haue sent my man into Portugall to demand iustice at the Kings hand, if not, I must put vp my supplication to the Queenes Maiesty and her honourable councell, to grant me leaue to stay here so much of their goods as they haue damnified mee, or else that I may take of them in Newfound land, as much fish as shall be woorth 600. li. or as much as the salte might haue made. I pray you aduertise mee what way I were best to take, and what hope there will bee of a recompence if I follow the suite: many there are that doe comfort me, and doe bid me proceede, for that her Maiestie and the councell doe tender poore fisher men, who with me haue susteined three hundred pound losse in that voyage. And to conclude, if you and your friend shall thinke me a man sufficient and of credite, to seeke the Isle of S. Iohn, or the riuer of Canada, with any part of the firme land of Cape Briton, I shall giue my diligence for the true and perfect discouerie, and leaue some part of mine owne businesse to further the same: and thus I end, committing you to God. From Bristow the 13. of Nouember, 1578.
Yours to vse and command,
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