Labrador: Its Discovery, Exploration, and Development.

p. 36: A book called the Chronicles of Eusebius, published by Henry Estienne in Paris, in 1512, describes seven savages who had been brought to Rouen from the country called Terre Neuve. There can be no doubt that the French fishermen, particularly from Normandy and Brittany, greatly preponderated in the fisheries of Newfoundland and Labrador during the sixteenth century. The New Interlude, 1517, to be quoted fully later, laments that while the English were neglecting the countries discovered by them, “full a hundred sail,” of the French loaded with fish there every year. While some allowance must be made for poetic licence, it was no doubt mainly correct. John Rut encountered eleven Norman vessels in the harbour of St. John’s in August, 1527, and the St. Malòins showed by their opposition to Jacques Cartier in 1533 that they carried on a regular fishery in the Straits of Belle Isle, and probably in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as well. In Edward VI’s Journal of his reign, he mentions that the French Ambassador informed him that the Emperor of Spain “had stayed certain French ships going fishing to Newfoundland.”

p. 93-94, on Hakluyt’s reading as the principal reason for his work on British navigators, to enhance their reputation: The industrious Hakluyt, in the Epistle Dedicatorie to his Divers Voyages says:— “When I passed the narrow seas into France, I both heard in speech and read in books, other nations miraculously extolled for their discoveries and notable enterprises by sea and land, but the English of all others, for their sluggish security and continual neglect of the like attempts, especially in so long and happy a time of peace, either ignominiously reported or exceedingly condemmed [sic]. Thus both hearing and reading the obloquie of our nation and finding few or none of our own men able to reply therein . . . myself determined to undertake the burden of that worke.”

And it is certain that very little could be done to uphold the honour of England in this respect did we not have Hakluyt’s great collection of voyages as a foundation to build upon.

p. 223-24, on the arrival of Captain George Cartwright in Labrador in 1770: Cartwright and Lucas arrived at Fogo in July, 1770, and at once hired a shallop to convey them to Cape Charles, where they intended to make their first start. It will be remembered that this was the scene of Darby’s ill-fated scheme to establish a whale fishery. Here Cartwright arrived in safety and took up his abode in the house which had been built by Darby. His retinue consisted of Mrs. Selby, his housekeeper, two English men-servants, eight or ten fishermen and trappers, and a number of dogs of various sporting breeds. On his arrival in Labrador, he says, “Being secluded from society, I had time to gain acquaintance with myself,” and therefore began his journal of [Journal of’Transactions and Events During a Residence of Nearly Sixteen Years on the Labrador, which he published in 1792. It is in three large quarto volumes, full of interesting information, though somewhat tedious to read. In his Preface he excuses the literary style of his book, which he says “will be compensated for by its veracity,” and informs us that “the transactions of the day were generally entered at the close of the same, and were written for no other purpose than to serve as a memorandum for my own use and personal reference.” The extreme candour of the narrative, especially as to the incidents of his private life, makes one certain that such was the case. His observations on the natural history of the country are particularly valuable, as is also his account of the Eskimos. The following short “Precis” of such a large book must naturally be very inadequate, and all interested in Labrador are recommended to study for themselves the pages which both Southey and Coleridge declared to be deeply interesting.

p. 256: This laudable design of Sir Hugh [Palliser], however, failed of its purpose; for, when Haven met the Eskimos and, after reading the passport, presented it to them, “they shrunk back terrified, and would not be persuaded to touch it, for they supposed it to be a living creature, having seen me speak words from it.”

p. 280-81: Every year since the inception of their Missions the Moravian Brethren have published a report of their work, carried on, not only in Labrador, but in all parts of world. Letters from Missionaries, or por tions of their diaries, accompany each annual report, and in the case of Labrador form a consecutive history of the country. As is to be expected, their evangelical work is their first concern and constitutes the bulk of their reports, but in addition one finds invaluable records of climatic conditions, of the supply of seals, whales, codfish, etc., on the coast, caribou and fur-bearing animals in the interior, and the consequent effect on the Eskimos.

The following account of the work of the Brethren is taken mainly from these reports.

The beginning of the nineteenth century found the Moravian Missionaries firmly established on the northern coast of Labrador, but their efforts at converting the Eskimos had not met with marked success. The superstitions of long ages were not easily rooted out nor the customs easy to change, seeing that, however repugnant they were to civilized and Christian ideas, many of them were still not unsuited to the Eskimo manner of life. Their lack of success is a continual plaint in the Missionaries diaries; every back slider is wept over, and every convert joyfully acclaimed. It was probably a result of the teaching of the children in schools for nearly a generation that the first real spiritual wakening became general. In 1801 it is reported that many could read tolerably well, and the first book printed in the Eskimo language, a history of the Passion Week, was eagerly studied and read aloud in their homes. Their love of music and singing was very early noticed, and the singing of hymns became a regular practice and delight to them. Later on they were taught to play on instruments of various kinds, and their musical capacity has been encouraged until now they have both a brass and a string band which perform quite acceptably.

p. 301: There were very few settlers in the neighbourhood, and the Indians who visited the post professed the Roman Catholic religion. On Sunday Mr. Smith read service to his household, which was attended by about thirty Indians, although they couid not understand a word of what was being said. Brother Elsner reports that “they were very fond of rum, but get it only in small quantities as presents, the sale of spirits to the Indians being prohibited by law.”

p. 315-16: We have read how the Moravian Missionaries endeavoured to minister to such of these people as they came in contact with; but it was long evident in Newfoundland that the condition of things amongst this large fleet [summer fishermen] was not all that it should be. Every sudden growth of a new industry of this kind seems to carry with it an attendant crop of troubles and abuses, which have become serious and threatening, almost before people have time to recognize them. It was thus with the Labrador fishing fleet. The Newfoundland Government were called upon again and again to pass laws and regulations to remedy abuses, and many more yet require to be passed.

The Moravian Brethren did what they could for this large floating population; but the problem was not one with which they could deal to advantage. The Eskimos were their particular care. Fortunately, the white settlers and fishermen were now (1892) to find a champion in Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, whose remarkable work on Labrador will be described in another chapter.

In taking leave of the Moravian Brethren, the writer trusts that he has conveyed to his readers some idea of the noble and self-sacrificing lives of these good men, who, in a steady procession through 137 years, have carried on the work of God on Labrador. By their means the Eskimos have been preserved from extinction, have been civilized, educated, and brought to the knowledge of their Creator and Saviour.

p. 429, on the Anglican Bishop Feild visiting northern Labrador in 1845: But as it was a dependency of Newfoundland he decided for himself in the affirmative, and at once began to plan a visit to its shores. This he first accomplished in 1848. He landed at Forteau, and the next day, Sunday, July 30th, held service in a large store which had been lent for the purpose, to a congregation of about one hundred and fifty persons, mostly men. From there he travelled along the coast in the Church-ship Hawk, visiting all the principal settlements as far north as Sandwich Bay. The spiritual condition of the people was pitiable. In very few houses was there any pretence at religion. There were very few Bibles or Prayer-books, and fewer still who could read them. Marriages had been performed by the simple practice of attestation before witnesses, and even that ceremony was often neglected. Occasionally someone was found who could read, and one marriage was considered well performed when the Church of England marriage service was read by a Roman Catholic fisherman from Newfoundland. The children remained unbaptized, except when a reader happened along who could master the Church of England service provided for such instances. One father was very proud of the way his children had been baptized. When Bishop Feild asked the question, as the Prayer-book directs, “By whom was this child baptized? “he replied, “By one Joseph Bird, and a fine reader he wor!”