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WILLIAM H. WHITELEY James Cook and British Policy in theNewfoundland Fisheries, 1763-7 CAPTAIN JAMES COOK iSchieflyremembered todayastherenowned explorer of thePacific.In recent years, thelateR.A. Skelton brought to ourattention Cook'searliercareerasthe surveyor of the St Lawrencewaterwayand the coasts of Newfoundland. • In factJames Cooknotonlycarriedoutthefirst scientific survey ofNewfoundland waters butalsocompiled information and carried outinvestigations whichhelped theBritish government maintainand expand theEnglish fishery atNewfoundland? Cook's Newfoundland surveys werenot performed in isolation, but at a timewhenEuropean maritime powers wereactively promoting programmes of scientific exploration andsurvey. Scientific survey hadbeenmadepossiblefor thefirsttimebythedevelopment of modern surveying instruments and methods.During the SevenYears' War againstFrance,the British fleethad to undertaketrickycombined operations, suchasthe assault on Louisbourg in •758 and the expedition up the St LawrenceRiver, which resulted in thecaptureof Quebec in 1759.JamesCookandthemasters of othershipshad founda way for the invasion forces, but onlyafter extraordinaryefforts attended by considerable risk.Theseand otheroperations SeeR.A. Skelton,'CaptainJamesCookasa Hydrographer,' Mariner'sMirror, x% a, Nov. •954,9a-• •9; R.A. Skelton, IamesCook,Surveyor o[New[oundland (SanFrancisco •965), PP.•-3• I wouldlike to acknowledge with thanksa CanadaCouncilgrantwhichmade possible theresearch forthisarticle. Themainsources used aretheAdmiralty andColonialOfficerecords in thePublicRecordOffice,London[mto], the NationalMaritime Museum,Greenwich [NMM],andthePublicArchives of Canada,Ottawa[•'^c],in addition tothemanuscript charts ofJames Cookin theAdmiralty(Ministry ofDefence), Hydrographic Department, Taunton, Somerset [^aD],theAdmiraltyLibraw,London, andtheBritishMuseum Vol. LlVNo 3 September •973 246 THE CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW madetheBritishAdmiraltyawareof theprevailing lacko.freliable charts. In the latterstages of the war, theAdmiraltyissued generalinstructions to all captains of warships to carryoutsurveys andmakecharts of thecoasts theyvisited,notingplaces for anchoring, woocling, watering,and procurement of supplies, with generalremarkson the fortifications, trade, and government ofeachplace? The expansion of theBritishdominions in NorthAmericawhichfollowed the SevenYears'War madeobvious the needfor land andseasurveys to be undertaken on an organized basis. Early in I764 the Privy Council orderedthat accuratesurveys be commenced and that surveyors and other officers be appointed asneeded. 4 The taskfell partlyon theAdmiralty, par--fly on the Boardof Trade, and partly on the royal governors. Thus SamuelHolland, assurveyor-general of the NorthernDistrictof America, surveyed large .sections of Nova Scotia,PrinceEdward Island, and the AmericanColoniesas far southasRhode Island, under the ordersof the Boardof Trade. J.F.W. Des Barres,workingfor the Admiralty, charted the coasts of Nova Scotiaand Cape Bretonwith their off-shore islands. James Cookhadlearned histradeworking withthese gentlemen duringthe Seven Years' War. • He wenton,in theperiod1763-7,tosurvey thenorth, south, andwestcoasts of Newfoundland, undertheorders of theAdmiralty. Cookworkedundertwo governors of Newfoundland, CaptainThomas Gravesand Commodore Hugh Palliser. He wasfortunatein that bothmen wereenergetic governors whoappreciated theworkhewasdoing, established a personal relationship with him, andconsidered him asmorethana mere nauticalsurveyor. Cookbecameinvolvedin the Newfoundland surveyalmostby accident. As Masterof the Northumberland, the flagshipof the NorthAmerican squadron, LordColvillecommanding, heaccompanied the fleetwhenit sailedto St John'sin 1762 to assist in the recapture of the town from the French.As the Northumberland movedfrom portto port in Newfoundland,Cook'sassiduous surveying and chart-makingattracted the attentionnot only of Lord Colville,but alsoof GovernorGraves.In AugustCooksurveyed theoldFrenchcapitalof Placentia, andin September and October the harbours of Harbour Grace and Carbonear in Conception Bay,aswellasof StJohn's itself. He supplemented hischarts with detailedsailingdirectionsand copiousremarkson suitableanchoring, watering,and woodingplaces, in accordance with the generalinstructions 3 A. Day,TheAdmiralty Hydrographic Service •795-•9•9 (LondonI967), pp. 338-9 4 •,Ro, Admiralty[Adm.]•/5166,PrivyCouncil Order,Io Feb.I764 5 SeeSkelton, 'CookasHydrographer,' pp.97-9 JAMES COOK AND THE NEWFOUNDLAND FISHERIES 247 laid downby the Admiralty?In regardto Cook's surveys in Conception Bay,Lord Colvillereported to theAdmiraltyBoardthat 'hitherto we have had a veryimperfect knowledge of theseplaces, but Mr. Cook,who was particularly carefulin sounding them,hasdiscovered that ships of anysize mayly in safety bothin HarbourGraceandtheBayof Carbonear. '7 On thereturnof theNorthumberland to England,Cooksentto theAdmiralty hisfinishedchartsand observations relatingto the St LawrenceRiver and the coasts of Nova Scotiaand Newfoundland.In Colville'sjudgment he was'wellqualifiedfor theworkhe hasperformed and for greaterundertakings of thesame kind. '8 With the end of the SevenYears'War cameCook'snext opportunity. The finaltermsof theTreatyof Parisweresigned in Februaryx763. France againrecognized Britishsovereignty overNewfoundland, and handedover NewFrance, including thecoast ofLabrador, whichcoast wasthenattached to the governorship of Newfoundland. Francewasallowedto retainher fishing rightsalongthe 'PetitNord' from CapeBonavista on the eastcoast to PointRicheonthewestern shore andwasgivenSt PierreandMiquelon as a shelterfor her fishermen. As the governorof Newfoundland, and as thecommodore of theNewfoundland squadron, Graves wasrespomible for supervising the observance of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 245-272
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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