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Hope and Deception in Conception Bay

Hope and Deception in Conception Bay

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 242
  • Book Info
    Hope and Deception in Conception Bay
    Book Description:

    These records provide evidence that serves as the basis for his discusssion of family production in the fishery, the unsuccessful attempts by families to diversify production through agriculture, the gender division of labour, and economic development.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7585-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface: The Chimera of Newfoundland History
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Part One: Setting and Context

    • Introduction
      (pp. 3-17)

      The absence of agrarian life in Newfoundland before 1855 serves as a useful reminder of the importance of agriculture in the rest of British North America. Agricultural settlement was paramount in the establishment of the colonial state. The demand for constitutional change, which reached its crisis in the 1830s and sparked rebellion in the Canadas, popularly arose from the increasingly different visions of the rural people and the colonial state. The lack of rebellion in the Maritimes and the nature of the reform movement in Prince Edward Island can be partially explained by the different rural history of each. The...

    • 1 Political Economy of the Resident Fishery
      (pp. 18-34)

      The people of scattered fishing communities cleaving to the rocky, near-barren harbours of the northeast coast during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were not likely to challenge the dominance of fish merchants to the same extent as people living in more compactly settled and densely populated areas. The residents of Conception Bay, however, lived in one of the coast’s most fertile areas, which also had a more diverse range of fisheries. Their communities were less isolated and more substantial than those of the bays farther up the coast. Recent views that Conception Bay is a largely urban centre neglect...

  6. Part Two: The Household Fishery

    • 2 Fishing Households and Family Labour
      (pp. 37-50)

      Merchants had little to do with imposing household production through family labour on Newfoundland fishing people, at least not directly. Merchants never faced a challenge to their domination of the staple trade by a rising planter class which employed wage labour in large-scale production. The planters themselves simply chose to use such labour in an effort to adapt to the capital requirements of producing salt fish. Little evidence exists to support the view of planters as nascent industrial producers except during the unusual economic conditions created by the Napoleonic Wars. Planters otherwise relied on household labour and merchant credit to...

    • 3 Household Agriculture
      (pp. 51-63)

      Fit for a fishery and little else - that is how Methodist missionaries felt about the northeast coast. People, in their opinion, depended almost solely on the fishery, not because merchants opposed agriculture but because, put bluntly, to ‘the Agriculturalist Newfoundland promises nothing.’ The fishing people of the northeast coast worked hard at growing vegetables and livestock, only to be frustrated by obstacles that were mind-numbing to contemplate. Frost and snow often arrived in October and did not depart until late May, sometimes June. Arctic ice blocked coastal waters and further lowered air temperatures. The interior lands were either bogs...

    • 4 Women in Household Production
      (pp. 64-80)

      ‘Whore,’ cried Mary Kough as she threw stones at Catharine Gould, threatening all the while to kill her.¹ Why would Kough so viciously attack Gould? The answer is a poignant indicator of the limited potential of fishing people’s agriculture in 1840: Kough attacked Gould because the latter tried to prevent her from stealing topsoil from the garden of Gould’s son-in-law at Carbonear. One woman was almost willing to murder another for the sake of a thin layer of manure and peatbog, a layer, however, which took an entire summer to prepare. Soil, crops and animals were scarce commodities in a...

  7. Part Three: Fishing People and Merchants

    • 5 The Legal Regime of the Fishery
      (pp. 83-99)

      Beat them, suggested Sir Hugh Palliser in 1793, and servants would work harder and better for their planters, ensuring a more profitable fishery. The problem, the ex-governor of Newfoundland acknowledged, was that the act named for him in 1775 gave fishing servants freedom from discipline and guarantees for wages, which were extraordinary in the early days of British industrial capitalism. As a misguided attempt to force servants to return to Great Britain, the act forced planters to pay servants’ wages without any effective way to exact penalties for negligence. Mandatory prearranged employment contracts forced employers to negotiate wage rates without...

    • 6 Truck as Paternal Accommodation
      (pp. 100-120)

      Overpowered and confined by men with blackened faces at Brigus in 1848, bailiff William Lilly heard his captors declare ‘“Bowring you son of a bitch we will make your Goods pay for it.”’¹ Lilly had been guarding the premises and goods of local fish merchant Richard Leamon, recently attached for payment of debts owed to his suppliers, Bowrings of St John’s, by the Northern Circuit Court at Harbour Grace. Lilly's assailants, although never discovered, were probably local planters and fishermen who determined that one of their own in Brigus, a merchant whom they counted on for supplies, credit, and markets,...

  8. Part Four: The Chimera

    • 7 Agriculture and Government Relief
      (pp. 123-140)

      ‘You will ruin the Colony by such extensive employment’ of Conception Bay residents on relief work, Colonial Secretary James Crowdy warned Justice of the Peace Robert Pinsent of Harbour Grace in 1847.¹ Despite more than twenty years of unrestrained land alienation and concerted government support of agricultural improvement, local magistrates throughout Newfoundland found fishing people still dependent on government relief for survival. Yet the cost of such assistance so strained the colony’s revenues that officials were desperate to believe agricultural development could succeed. Colonial authorities clung to such unrealistic optimism to avoid the despondency of accepting that, without some fundamental...

    • 8 Liberals and the Law
      (pp. 141-161)

      Reform prevarication about Newfoundland history extended to much more than agriculture. The Colonial Office granted representative government to Newfoundland, but not responsible government which would allow the growing bourgeoisie of St John’s to control colonial revenue and patronage. As governors became as enthusiastic about farming as reformers, the latter group needed another issue in order to build broad popular support for their political demands. Recognizing that fishing people were a potent force in the shaping of Newfoundland’s politics and society, but a force tied to the unequal accommodations implicit in truck, reformers changed tack in their assault on government by...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 162-170)

    Reform and, later, Liberal struggles for constitutional change led to the chimerical reinterpretation of the history of the Newfoundland fishery: that merchants dominated fishing families through truck by refusing to allow residents to develop alternate forms of production or ways of organizing labour that would lessen their dependence on merchant credit. The underpinning of the myth - that merchants prevented domestic capitalist development in the early nineteenth century by opposing economic diversification in agriculture and manipulating the law - is untrue. Merchants, state officials, and fishing families had long realized that Newfoundland’s soil and climate could not support petty production...

  10. Appendix A: The Law of Wage and Lien
    (pp. 171-174)
  11. Appendix B: Selection of Court Record Evidence
    (pp. 175-180)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 181-216)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-232)
  14. Index
    (pp. 233-242)