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Referring to Doctor Freeman's statement of an attempt in the early history of Truro to make a harbor at the Pond Landing, we call attention to the second attempt.
An act was passed in 1806, incorporating Jason Ayers (the Truro physician) and others as the " Truro Pond Harbor Association," for the purpose of opening a passage from the sea into a certain pond, or quagmire, lying on the west side of said town near the sea, and for clearing out said pond so as to form a convenient harbor.
This work was accomplished at considerable expense; a few small vessels entered, but the heavy westerly winds soon filled the channel with sand, and it proved a total failure.
THE FISHERIES AND THE WARS.
Exposed Condition. A Precarious Town. Dark Prospects. Beginning of the Fishing. Rivals for the Prize. Henry the IV. Sir Walter Raleigh. Stock Companies and the Nobility. Dutch Fishermen. Newfoundland. Catholic Europe. English Statutes. The Problem of Kings. Royal Kitchen and Royal Economy. Pine-Tree Shillings. Charles and Codfish. The People. 1485 — English Commerce—1880. Education. Supply and Demand. From Newfoundland to New England. St . Saviour. Acadia. Fighting Men. Louis XIV. Louis burg. A Modem Crusade. Victory. One Vote. Fishermen Knighted. Peace. Codfish and Molasses. Free Rum. Merchant Voyages. The Cape Threatened. The Armada. Lawful Money. Crown Point. Petition for Protection. Watch and Ward. The Scheme. Privateering. Second Seige of Louisburg. Change of Rule. Dissatisfaction. An Impending Crisis.
IN an early chapter we have referred to the fisheries as making the settlements of New England possible, and that they had a controlling hand in developing the Colonies. In this chapter we wish to show as pertaining to our history, their continued importance to civilization, and how they became at least an indirect agency in the long struggles that led to the independence of the country. For a hundred years the Cape towns from their exposed situation and business interests, shared largely in the wars and misfortunes of the colony. This applies particularly to Truro, and still more to Provincetown, which we have shown was a barometer of the times, with a precarious fortune, subject to the ebb and flow of the fishing. Up to this time, say about 1750, though fishing was the main business in Truro, it had been carried on principally from the shore, and in connection with farming, as was and still is the English custom. Thereafter, the prosperity of the town became more identified with the fisheries, which will become more a part of our history. Just at this time their fifty years of comparative prosperity became darkened by war and its environments, making a long, dark night.
The fisheries of North America followed close in the wake of Columbus. Long before the Mayflower anchored in Cape Cod harbor, they had touched the enterprise of Europe, and commerce had spread rapidly in the maritime nations under its impulse. The English, Dutch, French and Portuguese, were rivals for the prize. Newfoundland was first the great point for all fishermen adventurers, and it is said was known to them before the voyage of Cabot, in 1497.
As early as 1517, fifty ships from the nations named, were employed. In 1536, a colony was attempted at Newfoundland, then known as Stoxa fixa In 1600 fully two hundred ships went annually there, employing ten thousand men, part of whom lived on shore curing the fish.
In 1540 the French had established fisheries in Newfoundland. In 1577 they employed one hundred and fifty vessels, and pushed the business with great energy. A little later, under Henry IV., and Sully his famous minister, these fisheries were placed under government protection. In 1609 Scavelet, an old fisherman, had made forty voyages to Newfoundland.
In 1593 Sir Walter Raleigh declared in the House of Commons that the Newfoundland fishery was the stay and support of the west counties of England, so rapidly had it increased. Large joint stock companies were formed, to which leading statesmen of the kingdom freely contributed. Lord Bacon, Lord Northampton, Keeper of the Seals, and Sir Francis Tanfield, Chief Bearer of the Exchequer, were active supporters.
For many years the Dutch had followed the herring fisheries, and thereby enriched their nation. It used to be said that Amsterdam was built on herring bones, and that Dutchmen were made of pickled herring. Which last statement, I suppose, was not strictly true.
In 1580 a joint stock company of .£80,000 was formed in England to carry out the herring fisheries in rivalry with the Dutch; they thought it disgraceful that their Dutch neighbors should enrich themselves under English noses. In 1750 a company with a capital of £500,000 was formed in London, of which the Prince of Wales was president. His associates were among the first men in the kingdom; but it failed for want of practical management. This failure was a great blow to the herring fisheries of England. The stockholders could put their hands in their empty pockets and sing: —
He's dead I he's dead as a herring I
The English were jealous of the growing wealth and influence of the Dutch, and pushed their own new-found enterprise with great energy.
It was a crude age, and the fishermen, though brave, bold and indomitable, were rude, ignorant and cruel. In many instances little better than pirates. Some of them became notorious freebooters. They exercised great authority on the Island, which excited the jealousy of England, whose unwise legislation forced them to the most atrocious deeds. The history of Newfoundland fisheries, that without comparison are the most cruel in the annals of crime, were mostly for want of a modicum of practical wisdom in the laws made to govern them. Sabine says: "For more than three hundred years the quarter-deck of a fisherman dictated laws and usurped authority in Newfoundland."
It must be remembered in connection with the rapid growth of the American fisheries, that Europe was then Catholic, and that by the statute book, all British subjects abstained from flesh-food one hundred and fifty-three days in the year; and Parliament passed an act imposing a penalty of ten shillings for the first offence of eating flesh on fish-days; other enactments "For the benefit of the realm, as well as to the navie, in sparing and increase of flesh victu il," etc. We should also consider the condition of Europe. Property aggregated largely in the nobility. Capital was limited. Enterprise and inventions were circumscribed for want of an open door. Labor was in poor demand, with poorer pay. The masses were ignorant, priest-ridden and poverty-bound. To feed the people, to keep them from positive starvation, was the open problem of kings and statesmen. The varieties of food were limited, and cooking a lost art, or in its infancy. It may seem a surprising statement, that royalty was scarcely as well provided for in the comforts of living as the majority of our fishermen to-day. Contrast the fisherman's home with the conveniences and many of the elegancies of refined living; with the hovels without chimneys, or windows, or floors, in which the majority of the English lived. The palace floor of Queen Elizabeth was covered with straw.
And now doth Geraldine press down
An English journal of the sixteenth century says: In one of the noble and splendid establishments of the kingdom, the servants and retainers had fish three fourths of the year. "Nor does my lord and lady fare much better, since for breakfast they had a quart of beer, as much wine, two pieces of salt fish, six red herring, four white ones and a dish of sprats." Old songs are said to be truthful tell-tales: —
In days when our King Robert reigned,
His breeches cost but half a crown:
He said they were a groat too dear,
Red herring were a standard bill of fare. A red herring riding away on horseback, in the royal corn-salad, was an accomplishment for kings' households. At the marriage of Henry IV., in 1403, the banquet was six courses; three of flesh and fowl, and three of fish, among which was "salty fyshe." Nor should we be misled by the great retinue of