There has been a persistent historiographical tradition from the beginning of the nineteenth century that the earliest settlers of Newfoundland were Puritans who were guided religiously by dissenting ministers. Anspach, the Anglican missionary and schoolmaster in St. John's and Harbour Grace, wrote in his History of the Island of Newfoundland (1819): "A considerable colony, composed chiefly of Puritans, accompanied to Newfoundland Captain Edward Wynne, whom Sir George [Calvert] had sent with the commission of Governor, to prepare every thing necessary for his reception ..."
(1) Judge Prowse, reproducing information from a now entirely lost pamphlet by Mrs. Siddall, the wife of the Congregational minister G. Ward Siddall at St. John's, on The Origin of Nonconformity in St. John's, Newfoundland, in his History of the Churches in Newfoundland (1895), a supplement to the influential History of Newfoundland (1895), popularized from fact and fiction the most comprehensive picture of Puritanism on the island. Its beginnings can according to Prowse be traced to the time of Queen Elizabeth when "some of the English separatists (Independents) were banished to Newfoundland ..., and in the small scattered settlements then existing about St. John's and Conception [Bay], these victims of Elizabeth's ecclesiastical tyranny could easily hide themselves away." We are told that the "separatists were the extreme branch of the Puritans, who had broken away from the Church and the Hierarchy."
(2) The story did not end here, but "Guy's colonists and their zealous Puritan pastor, Erasmus Stourton, would join with these exiles, and in this manner a small independent body may have been formed, and their numbers would be increased during the reign of Charles I." Prowse went on to suggest that George Downing, the Harvard graduate, received an invitation from "the Newfoundland Independent Church" to preach in 1645 when he visited Newfoundland. He also alluded to a similar offer made in 1660 to the Rev. Richard Blinman, "an English Divine." Finally, he speculated about the demise of Puritanism in Newfoundland, that "probably owing to the want of organisation, this body as a separate denomination died out ..."
(3) It appears that the Prowse-Siddall assertions about Puritan Separatists in Newfoundland are largely based upon comments in John Wood's Memoir of Henry Wilkes (1887), because the information provided in Prowse duplicates almost verbatim Wood's presentation, which also maintained that organized Congregationalism "flourished in this oldest British colony," and that on several occasions Congregationalist clergymen were invited "to settle as their pastor."
(4) The association of Rev.Erasmus Stourton with Puritanism was further affirmed by M. F. Howley in his sketch on "The Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland" in Prowse's History of the Churches in Newfoundland, where the Anglican priest in Calvert's plantation is simply referred to as "the Puritan divine".
(5) W. Pilot in the Church of England chapter in the same tome had Stourton come to the island as first clergyman in 1611, when he was alleged to have accompanied John Guy on his second visit to Newfoundland and remained there until 1628, when he became chaplain to the Earl of Albemarle [sic].
(6) Prowse, in his voluminous documentary companion History had Stourton also come out with Guy on his second voyage, but in 1612, and return after his "collision" with Lord Baltimore in 1628. Here Stourton was depicted in a moralistic vein as a "narrow minded sectary, and a troublesome, meddlesome busybody," who upon his return to England "hastened to pour into the ears of his Puritan allies the frightful fact that Baltimore actually had mass celebrated."
(7) And in the reputable, though now seriously dated academic treatment of Ralph Greenlee Lounsbury, The British Fishery at Newfoundland: 1634-1763 (1934, reprinted 1969), the story of Erasmus Stourton, the alleged "Puritan minister" and "member of Guy's original settlement," was taken over from the Anspach-Wood-Prowse tradition without hesitation.
(8) Even as professional a historian as A. L. Rowse, in his 1958 Trevelyan Lectures at Cambridge on The Elizabethans and America, still made Stourton "an aggressively Protestant preacher" under Guy, who was later banished by Lord Baltimore for his "troublesomeness."
(9) It was Raymond J. Lahey, who in his study on "The Role of Religion in Lord Baltimore's Colonial Enterprise" seriously questioned the Puritan origins of early Newfoundland settlement since "the assertion is not adequately supported." While for him "the possibility cannot be excluded, especially in light of the Puritan migrations current in that period, contemporary reports afford it no real confirmation."
(10) Lahey's article on religion in Lord Baltimore's Avalon did not permit a detailed exploration of the alleged dissenting presence in seventeenth-century Newfoundland. I wish to do so in the present paper by addressing the following question: what was the nature of seventeenth-century institutional Protestantism in Newfoundland, and is there any reason to assume an organized dissenting presence on the island? I shall confine myself strictly to the evidence regarding the Anglican and Protestant dissenters, since the role of Roman Catholicism has been explored already in detail by Lahey
(11) and Codignola.
(12) My task is limited in so far that I do not attempt to scrutinize the religious background of all individual settlers but rather focus on the practice and theology of the clergy that officiated in Newfoundland's proprietary settlements as well as on the religious stance of their patrons. In addition I shall explore the scope of the Separatist and Congregational presence in Newfoundland during the period that proprietary settlements flourished on the Avalon peninsula.
A brief definitional comment is in order. Most of the authors alleging Puritans in Newfoundland have in mind Independents or Congregationalists, those groups of dissenters who insisted that no compromise with the Church of England was possible and who espoused a radical break with what they perceived to be an apostate church. Separatist conventicles in England and Holland as well as the Pilgrims of New England adopted this radical piety and polity. Scholarship is divided on the question of whether to treat Elizabethan "Puritans" and "Separatists" as branches of one tree, some leading contemporary researchers on early English dissent, especially P. Collinson and P. Lake, emphasize the distinctiveness of both movements. While many Puritans during Elizabethan times were able to exist within the English Church, Separatists were incapable of such compromise and defined themselves sociologically in local and congregationally autonomous groups. Their exile in Holland and North America was a consequence of their sectarian non-compromise in religion. Even when distinguishing Puritans and Separatists, the former are no longer viewed in exclusively doctrinal terms, e.g., such as being radical Calvinists. Modern scholarship views Elizabethan Puritanism rather as a religious subculture whose Protestantism is crucially determined by their intensity in piety and commitment to reform rather than as an alternative to "Anglicanism." It is the lack of experiential and ecclesiastical data on seventeenth-century Newfoundland Anglicanism which makes it difficult to determine the quality of religious commitment in the proprietary settlements.
(13) Nevertheless, as far as Newfoundland historiography is concerned, most of the individuals and groups envisaged by Prowse and Wilkes can be associated with London Separatism or New England Congregationalism. It is the presence and scope of that tradition in Newfoundland which this paper seeks to explore.
The Early Anglican Presence in Newfoundland While Anspach was still unaware of Erasmus Stourton's presence in Newfoundland, since the publication of Howley's Ecclesiastical History, but especially since the appearance of Prowse's Histories, he is credited with being the first minister in Newfoundland and also associated with John Guy's plantation in Conception Bay. Lahey,
(15) and Cell
(16) have dispelled the notion that Stourton accompanied Guy on his second voyage, because the "Puritan divine" would have done so at the age of 9. Since Lahey's study and with the editing and publication of the relevant colonial records by Cell, the presence of Stourton can be clearly confined to Calvert's Avalon in 1627-28. Lahey nominates instead Richard James as having "the distinction ... of being the first Anglican cleric known to have ministered in Newfoundland."
(17) Before discussing James and Stourton, let me suggest as candidate for being the first Anglican clergyman on the island yet another priest who until now has been overlooked entirely, the Reverend William Leat.
>From the records of the Virginia Company it appears that as early as 28 January 1622, Rev. William Leat, an Anglican clergyman then in London, with previous experience in Newfoundland, was recommended for a position in Virginia by John Slany,
(18) the treasurer of the Newfoundland Company. The archival document reads as follows: Mr Deputy acquainted the Court that one mr Leat a Minister beinge heretofore in Newfoundland and preacher there whom mr Slany the marchant commended for his civill and good carriage the said mr Leat havinge upon conference with some of Virginia heard a good report of that Countrye was nowe desirous to goe over ...
(19) Leat, after preaching a trial sermon at the ancient St. Scyths Church (Sithe's Church) on the border of Cordwainer Street Ward in London and finding "approbation," was told to wait in London until a ministerial position would become available in Virginia.
(20) On 10 June he was sent to Virginia,
(21) but already on 20 Jan. 1622/3 the governor and the Council of Virginia wrote to the Company: "The little experience we hadd of mr Leake (Leat) made good your Commendations of him, and his death to us very greveous."
(22) While hardly anything is known about Leat's theological and ecclesiastical stance, the trial sermon in one of London's oldest churches and the recommendation of Leat by Slany as a preacher "commended for his civill and good carriage" hardly makes him a candidate for Separatism, even if he may personally have held Puritan convictions. Slany's association with the Newfoundland Company and Leat's presence in London in January of 1622 further suggest that he served as a minister in the Cupids Cove settlement, originally begun by John Guy, although a preaching presence at Bristol's Hope settlement or in Vaughan's settlements at Trepassy and Renews cannot be ruled out. The exact dates and duration of his service can also no longer be determined. All that can be said about this possible Anglican clergyman in the Cupids Cove settlement, where a "godlie minister" had been requested for the "greate comforte to vs all and a credit to the plantation" by John Guy as early as 1610,
(23) is that nothing specific about the religious orientation of the minister or the colonists is known. This conclusion is supported by the remaining documents regarding that colony, which do not suggest an organized dissenting presence in the plantation, not even in the neighbouring Bristol's Hope settlement, where, since 1618, the anti-Catholic yet equally anti-Puritan poet Richard Hayman served as governor.
Sir William Vaughan's Welsh utopia on the southern Avalon
peninsula was hardly a refuge for Puritans and Separatists
(24) Like his contemporary Hayman, Vaughan despised Papists and Puritans alike, as is obvious from his works The Golden Fleece (1626) and The Church Militant (1640). In the Golden Fleece Vaughan devotes a separate chapter to the condemnation of Thomas Cartwright, Robert Browne and other Puritans through Archbishop Whitgift and indicts their allegedly overweening spiritual pride.
(25) And in The Church Militant, Puritans with their "Idoll-passions blinde" are placed side by side with Roman Catholics, who are accused of indulging in sensual pleasures.
(26) Thus, even if Leat could be assigned to Vaughan's plantation instead of Guy's, what we have said so far about the anti-Puritan stance of his proprietor alone would make it highly unlikely that the south Avalon plantation was the home of English dissenters. There was also an unnamed Episcopal Church of Scotland minister, who accompanied Sir William Alexander's Nova Scotian settlers on their ill-fated first voyage to Cape Breton, a journey which ended prematurely in Newfoundland, where Sir William owned a plantation which he had purchased from William Vaughan. According to Alexander's An Encouragement to the Colonies (1624), the planters and their minister wintered in St. John's in 1622-23. Here a relief ship arrived from England on 5 June 1623 and discovered that the "Minister and Smith (both for Spi[ri]tuall and Temporall respects, the two most necessary members) were both dead ..."
(27) We do not know when the clergyman died and the extent of his ministerial activity in Newfoundland but may safely assume that he shared his employer's own moderate Episcopalian convictions.
(29) another Anglican, who briefly appears in a letter of Calvert's first governor of the Avalon settlement, Richard Wynne
(30), cannot be called a Puritan either. Wynne had requested from Calvert shortly after his arrival in Newfoundland on 28 August 1621 ... praying your Honour, that I may be furnished with all necessary Tooles and provision of Victuals the next yeare, and if your Honour may, with about the number of twenty persons more, whereof a Surgeon, and a learned and religious Minister: that then your Honour may be pleased by Gods assistance, not to doubt of a good and profitable successe in euery respect, and a flourishing plantation, women would bee necessary heere for many respects.
(31) The "learned and religious Minister" who arrived in the plantation the following summer was Richard James, a much-admired scholar, world-traveller, and future first librarian of the famous Cotton library in London. He is acknowledged in a letter of Wynne to Calvert of 30 June 1622 with the following words: And vpon the last of Iune Master Iames came hither, from Renouze,
(32) and the Salt-maker Master Iohn Hickson; from whose hands I receiued two Letters more: that by Master Iames being of the 4. of May, and the other by Hickson of the 10. of the same.
(33) In Wynne's very descriptive letter to Calvert on the state of the plantation, of 17 August 1622, which includes a detailed list of the inhabitants, "Master James," however, is no longer listed. Neither is he mentioned in Nicholas Hoskins' letter to Calvert of 18 August 1622.
(34) The picture painted about the life in the colony by Wynne was that of a purely secular undertaking, which, except for the fleeting presence of Richard James, the passionate voyager, who within the space of a few years can also be found in Shetland, Greenland and Russia, lacked all appearance of a Puritan colony, and even the religious fervour and tension observed in the same plantation five years later when Aston was governor.
James's stay, which appears to have been of the shortest
duration, cannot be exploited in favour of a Puritan presence.
James--as many of his contemporaries--was a virulent
anti-Catholic but no friend of Puritans, despite the quote by
Anthony Wood in Athenae Oxonienses that he was "a severe
Calvinist, if not worse."
(35) Wood is led astray by James's anti-Catholicism, which can almost be termed congenital when one considers the correspondence of his uncle and fellow librarian Thomas James, the friend of Archbishop Ussher.
(36) But Richard James remained theologically and ecclesiastically clearly within the pale of conformity and ends his largest and still unpublished work, "De canonizatio Thomae Cantuariensis et suorum," a history of Archbishop Becket, with an invocation that sees England's enemies from without and within--Pope, Jesuits, and Puritans--equally perish on the rock of a Britain aware of its legitimate imperial presence.
(37) Later, James, who in 1630 is said to have been "sent minister thither some nine years ago," remembered Newfoundland as an unfriendly place where he had "found between eight and nine months' winter, and upon the land nothing but rocks, lakes, or mosses, like bogs, which a man might thrust a spike down to the butt-head in."
(38) The evidence regarding Erasmus Stourton's presence in Calvert's Avalon is at best ambiguous regarding his alleged Puritanism. While Stourton's theological education at St. John's College, Cambridge, could indeed have exposed him to Puritan thought, as it did for his fellow student at the college, Sir Simonds D'Ewes, the hay-day of Puritanism at Cambridge was waning and the reaction gathering momentum until it reached a peak during Laud's term as Archbishop.
(39) Stourton's Narborough, Leicestershire, roots reveal even less about the family's religious orientation. None of the documents illustrative of his short stay as a 24-year old in Newfoundland from 1627 to 1628 leaves the impression that the Protestant settlers in the plantation were dissenters with a religious mission. Stourton's conflict with the Roman Catholic priests, whom Lord Baltimore had brought with him to Newfoundland, concerned their unabashed practice of Catholicism, in particular that the priests "Hacket and Smith euery sunday sayth Masse and doe vse all other the ceremonies of the church of Rome in as ample a manner as tis vsed in Spayne."
(40) The second stumbling block was an even more serious infraction of the penal laws, the alleged forced baptism of a Protestant child by a Roman Catholic priest with the approval of Lord Baltimore. Stourton testified: "And this examinant hath seene them at Masse and knoweth that the childe of one William Poole a protestant was baptized according to the orders and customes of the church of Rome by the procurement of the sayd Lord of Baltamoore contrary to the will of the said Poole to which child the said Lord was a witnes."
(41) In depositions taken at Ferryland in 1652 in connection with claims of Cecil Calvert against Sir David Kirke, a 60 year-old William Poole, then living in neighbouring Renews, affirmed his Protestant convictions by stating that "if it did lay in his power for the victory he would rather give it to Sr David Kirke by reason Sr David is a protestant and my Lord of Boltomore a Papist."
(42) The public practice of Roman Catholicism in the settlement during penal times but especially the forced baptism of a Protestant child by a Roman Catholic priest in the presence of an Anglican priest would have been considered objectionable if not treasonable by most Anglican clergymen.
(43) Stourton could not content himself with Calvert's officially sanctioned religious pluralism on the island. It was after all a novum in seventeenth-century Britain and had been made possible in part by the liberally phrased Avalon charter
(44). It is therefore not surprising that he reacted especially strongly to a case of religious preference transcending the boundaries of the existing British law. But Stourton's deposition does not yield any additional evidence that either the community or the priest were zealous Puritans, as alleged by Prowse and others. Even if he had Puritan theological leanings, the pastor's observations and judgments remained well within the confines of what one would have expected from any contemporary Anglican priest.
The praise of the poet Hayman,
(45) governor of Bristol's Hope, about the "Parson of Ferryland" cannot be exploited in favour of Stourton's alleged Puritanism either. The statement of Hayman regarding Stourton is value-neutral on the type of his Protestantism. He writes in his Quodlibets: 102. To my Reuerend kind friend, Master Erasmus Sturton,
Preacher of the Word of God, and Parson of Ferry Land in the Prouince of Aualon in Newfound-Land. No man should be more welcome to this place, Then such as you, Angels of Peace, and Grace; As you were sent here by the Lords command, Be you the blest Apostle of this Land; To Infidels doe you Euangelize, Making those that are rude, sober and wise. I pray that Lord that did you hither send, You may our cursings, swearing, iouring mend.
(46) Hayman himself shared the anti-Catholicism of his age but was equally critical of the Puritans as the following epigram from the same book, penned in Newfoundland, shows: 32. A Description of a Puritane, out of this part of the Letany, >From Blindnesse of Heart, Pride, Vaine glory, &c. Though Puritanes the Letany deride, Yet out of it they best be descride: They are blind-hearted, Proud, Vaine-glorious, Deepe Hypocrites, Hatefull and Enuious, Malitious, in a full high excesse, And full of all Vncharitableness. A Prayer hereupon. Since all tart Puritanes are furnisht thus, >From such false Knaues (Good Lord deliver vs.)
(47) And yet the Stourton case exhibits a "Puritan" dimension nevertheless, the choice of individuals to whom the Anglican priest appealed after his forced departure from Newfoundland. Stourton's deposition of 9 October 1628 quoted above was made before "Nicholas Sherwill marchant Mayour of the borough of Plymouth and Thomas Sherwill marchant two of his Maieties Iustices of peace within the sayd borrough."
(48) Nicholas and Thomas Sherwill were hardly unbiased observers. The name of Sherwell or Sherwill is synonymous with Plymouth Congregationalism and nonconformity. Thomas Sherwill, the prominent merchant, was a well-known dissenter whom a contemporary Collector of Customs described as "a seditious fellow" and who had smuggled dangerous books to be printed in Holland. He was MP for Plymouth from 1614 until his death and, like his brother Nicholas, for three terms mayor of the city. The two Sherwill brothers took their public religion seriously and had founded an orphanage in 1615. The Puritan tradition of the family was later continued by Rev. Nicholas Sherwill, the son of Nicholas Sherwill mentioned in the Stourton deposition. The younger Nicholas became a prominent nonconformist leader and, before receiving a preaching license in 1672, had spent two months in jail in 1665 for his nonconformity.
(49) Whether the dissenting commitments of Stourton's Plymouth confidants permits any conclusion about his own religious and ecclesiastical stance is uncertain. Perhaps he merely sought redress from individuals in public life whose demonstrated Protestantism was known. The employment of Stourton at the time of his deposition as chaplain to Christopher Villiers, Earl of Anglesey,
(50) a brother of the Duke of Buckingham, does not suggest any specific Puritan affinities either. The earl, an undistinguished courtier who benefitted from his brother's nepotism, had no Puritan leanings, neither did the duke, for whom religion was largely a matter of political convenience. If he can be characterized religiously at all, his allegiance was to Laud and the Arminians, not the Puritans.
(51) The Buckingham connection explains, however, Stourton's subsequent rectorate in Wallesby and his fleeting albeit anonymous inclusion into the literary history of seventeenth-century England. For it was Stourton to whom an enigmatic autobiographical reference is made by Robert Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy, when the author mentions that he resigned from his living at Walesby "for some special reason."
(52) The special reason was Erasmus Stourton, who was presented with Burton's quickly vacated living and rectorate by Lionel Cranfield, the Earl of Middlesex, a relative by marriage to Stourton's former employer Christopher Villiers and the Duke of Buckingham.
(53) The religious profile of All Saints church in Walesby, situated in a relatively small Lincolnshire village and averaging 5 baptisms and 3 deaths a year, can--even if its rector evidenced some Puritian sympathies--hardly be described as "Puritan," neither can the religious orientation of its patron Lionel Cranfield. Stourton's son Thomas took over the rectorate after his father's death in 1658 and remained in the parish until his own death in 1677.
(54) Thus the question of Stourton's "Puritanism" has to remain-- for the time being--unanswered, until more data can substantiate the quality of his religious life and practice. After Calvert's quick departure in 1629 and prior to Kirke, rules issued for the fishery in Newfoundland by Charles I in 1633 ordered that "vpon the Sundayes the Company assemble in meet places, and have diuine Service to bee said by some of the Masters of the Shippes, or some others, which prayers shall bee such as are in the Booke of Common Prayer."
(55) But also the subsequent history of the Avalon settlement under Sir David Kirke,
(56) who attempted a rejuvenation of the plantation after he and his associates had wrested it from the Calverts, does not show any features of nonconformity and Puritanism. In fact, the opposite is the case. The patent to the Duke of Hamilton and Sir David Kirke of 13 November 1637 makes reference to Calvert's breach of trust, when deserting Newfoundland and "leaving the same in noe sort provided for ..., leaving divers of our poore Subjects in ye said Province liveing without Government." This trust, which Charles I now placed in the London patentees, included both "the propagation of the true Religion amongst Heathens there liveing and more especially ... tender care of our owne poor Subjects there already residing."
(57) The charter, which eventually envisioned incorporated cities in Newfoundland, provided consequently for "the Patronage and Advouson of all Churches and Chappells, which are, or shall happen hereafter to be built in the said Continent, Island or Region of Newfoundland," and required "that none may thither resort to inhabite, that are not of that true Christian Faith, whereof it is our cheifest happynesse to be Professor and Defender." To enforce this Anglican conformity, every future resident of Newfoundland twelve years and older was required to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy before leaving for Newfoundland.
(58) Moreover, the patent strictly directed the proprietors of the plantation to "establish the Orthodox Religion publickly professed and allowed in our charge of England."
(59) In matters of the "orthodox religion" Sir David was hardly a liability. As a stalwart Anglican he despised Roman Catholics and Puritans alike and actively guarded against a dissenting presence in his Newfoundland plantation. This is obvious from his correspondence with Archbishop Laud, whose counsel in ecclesiastical matters Kirke requested, presumably because Laud headed the commission which from 1634 on oversaw judicial and ecclesiastical matters in the British colonies. Several policy directives of Laud from 1630-1640 were designed to suppress in the plantations of Britain "factions and schismatical humours," establish "good conformity and unity of the Church," and gain firm control of the colonies by tying ecclesiastical affairs strictly to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London.
(60) In Kirke the archbishop found a compliant colonial administrator, as a letter from Ferryland of 2 October 1639 to Laud shows. Kirke writes: That the Ayre of Newfound-Land agrees perfectly well with all Gods Creatures except Jesuits and Scismaticks; A greate mortality amongst the former Tribe so affrighted my Lord Baltimore, that hee utterly deserted the Country. And of the other sect, wee have heard so many Frensies from our next neighbouring Plantation, The greatest his Majesty hath in America; that wee hope our strict observance & use of the Rites and service of the Church of England, as it is our cheifest safety, by the blessing of God, whose ordainance wee are constantly persuaded it is; So maye it discourage forever all seditious Spirits to mingle with us, to the disturbance of that happy Conformity which wee desire, maye bee established in this Land. To this good End, if it shall please your Grace to give us directions, for the time to come (for wee doubt not that the country may bee peopled in a short time, with a numerous Plantation of His Majestyes subjects) wee shall with all Respect & faythfulness receive & practise Your Graces Injunctions ...
(61) The "other sect" of the "next neighbouring Plantation, The greatest His Majesty hath in America ..." refers most likely to the Congregationalists of New England. And yet Kirke's compliance cannot be attributed entirely to his Anglican faith. Kirke placed religion also in the service of colonial legitimation at a time when the London-based colonists with their wage-oriented economy had to defend themselves against West country attacks that sought to maintain the old share-based adventurism. This becomes clear in Kirke's "Reply to the Answeare to the Description of Newfoundland" of 29 September 1639. Here he legitimized--despite the clear absence of any missionary activity among the natives of Newfoundland--his plantation with refence to one of the "principal reasons" of the original patent, "the hope of the Conversion of those heathens to the Christian Faith." The fact that Kirke's major opposition in England, the Western Adventurers, represented religiously a strong dissenting element may also have been exploited by him before Archbishop Laud, whose attempts at establishing Anglican conformity in the colonies were well known. Matters hardly changed under Governor Treworgie
(62). His instructions of 1653 stated "That upon ye Lords day the Accompanye assemble in meet place for divyne worship," which may have been the mansion house of the Kirkes at Ferryland.
(63) That the building of a formal church with a separate minister was an unlikely proposition is already evident from the sparse population and the isolation of the settlements, a point alluded to by a former inhabitant of Newfoundland during the 1630s and 1640s. Thomas Cruse, a long-time resident of Bay Bulls before and during Kirke's time, stated in a deposition at Totnes, Devonshire, in 1667: And tht during ye abode of this depont in ye NewFland there was nott any church Erected there. and iff one should be built ye harbs are soe ffar distant each ffrom othr and ye ways soe impassable through ye woods tht itts impossible ffor people to come to ye Church ffrom any off ye harbs ware ye people move then they are whareas in most of wch harbos ware nott above 2 or 3 poor ffamilies.
(64) The religious profile of the early ministers and proprietors as well as the character of the settlements thus lead to the conclusion that there is no evidence for an organized Protestant dissenting presence in Newfoundland's proprietary settlements either before or during Sir David Kirke's time, who was perhaps the strongest proponent of Anglican conformity on the island. The lack of institutional development and demographic transience made organized religion even less likely outside the formal colonial establishments, where settlement hardly went beyond the family or small planter unit. If we raise briefly the question why there were no organized Puritans or Separatists in Newfoundland, the answer has to include the purely economic nature of the settlements as well as the religious make-up of the societally established noble proprietors and company officers. Religious dissent and Puritanism can rather be found among the opponents of settlement in Newfoundland, the West Country seasonal fishing captains and merchants, who did not attempt to establish an organized religious presence in Newfoundland. That they were even vulnerable to heterodox forms of Protestantism is illustrated by some of their conversions to the Quaker faith in 1659 in St. John's Harbour. The only significant exception among the Newfoundland proprietors is the case of the Roman Catholic, George Calvert, Lord Baltimore. His case is a splendid example of the close relationship between religious conflict and the confessional dissent of the Newfoundland proprietor. Congregationalists and Quakers in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Newfoundland Prowse's suggestion quoted in the introduction to this paper, that religious Separatists "were banished to Newfoundland " during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, cannot be dismissed out of hand, although he and subsequent historians that mention it remain vague and furnish no source citation whatsoever. Wood, the informant of Prowse, is more explict. He attributes the dissenting presence primarily to George Mourt's (Morton) Relation Or Iournall of the beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation setled at Plimoth in New England (1622). An examination of Mourt's Relation shows, however, no evidence for a Puritan or Separatist presence in Newfoundland.
(65) The only substantive Newfoundland connection alluded to in Morton is the help that New England settlers received from Thomas Dermer and the native American Tisquantum, who from 1616 to 1618 lived under John Mason's governorship at Cupids.
(66) It is likely that most of Wood's information came from the widely available Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers of the Colony of Plymouth by Alexander Young, which was published first in 1841 and reproduces several of the early New England journals, discourses, and dialogues. Among the reprints is also Governor Bradford's A Dialogue, Or the Sum of a Conference Between Some Young Men Born in New England and Sundry Ancient Men that Came Out of Holland and Old England, Anno Domini 1648. It retains a summary statement which refers to the exiled London Separatists in Holland during the reign of Elizabeth as follows: "For many of them had lain long in prisons, and then were banished into Newfoundland, where they were abused, and at last came into the Low Countries ..."
(67) It is clear from Bradford's context that he refers to the intended exile of the London Congregationalist leadership to the Magdalen Islands, an undertaking which ended in abject failure and which eventually reconciled the Separatist congregation with their leadership, not in Newfoundland or the Magdalen Islands but in Holland. This earliest brush with Puritans did involve Newfoundland on the periphery, but it is no exception to what will be observed later in regard to the seventeenth-century Congregationalist presence in Newfoundland, that this association is most tenuous and transitional. In the case of the London Elizabethan Separatists, it involved at most four individuals, however quite significant ones. London Separatists, i.e. radical Protestant dissenters who felt no compromise with the Established Church was possible and engaged in the formation of separate congregations, were severely persecuted during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, which in 1593 saw new legislation passed against such "seditious sectaries."
(68) . After the execution of Henry Barrow and others, also many members of the London conventicles suffered imprisonment but were eventually allowed to emigrate to Holland minus their leaders. The London leadership consisted of Francis Johnson,
(69) his younger brother George, as well as one of their ruling elders, Daniel Studley. These men, together with another member, John Clerke or Clarke, were permitted to join an exploration party to the Magdalen Islands under the condition that they not return to England.
(70) It is possible that Charles Leigh
(71) and Stephen van Harwick, captains of the "Hopewell" and "Chancewell" that took these early London Congregationalists to British North America, had Separatist ties themselves, and the intended stay at the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was in preparation not only for a subsequent colonization by the exiled London Congregationalists in Holland but also a defence of British mercantile interest in the region and may have been sponsored by walrus fishing interests.
The "Chancewell" with George Johnson and John Clarke on board was shipwrecked near Cape Breton and subsequently plundered by Basque fishermen but eventually found by accident by the sister ship the "Hopewell" upon its return from the Magdalen Islands. After some retaliatory raids against Basques on the Avalon peninsula, the "Hopewell" returned to England with the Separatists who eventually rejoined the exiles in Holland without ever returning again to the Magdalen Islands or Newfoundland.
There is some indication of religious activities, notably by the more aggressive George Johnson, on the boat and among sailors in Newfoundland, but also of religious strife with his fellow Separatists and the captain. To the chagrin of the captain, George Johnson seems to have lent to a sailor A True Confession of the Faith (1596), one of the Barrowist major confessional documents. George Johnson later narrated the incident as follows:
... the Pastor [Francis Johnson] stoode very fast and faithfull to his brother [George Johnson] being likely (thorow the envy of a Master of one of the Ships, and some of the Meriners) to come into trouble about our printed confession of faith, which he there had, and lent to one of them: also when they came into Newfound Land, one of the Captaines reviling George Johnson behinde his back about the same matter, the Pastor defended him, and openly rebuked the Captaine ...
(72) The brief transitional presence of four Separatists in Newfoundland during the summer of 1597 and one documented act of religious proselyting aboard the ship seems to be the occasion for the subsequent global statement about a Separatist presence in Newfoundland during the Elizabethan persecutions. And yet the question of a "Puritan" presence in seventeenth-century Newfoundland suggests itself also by its proximity to the New England settlements. English, French and Basque fishing had made the island well known to Europeans, and after the initial failures of the Virginia plantation, it became for a while an even more attractive option for settlement than America. This awareness was supported later by concrete links with the early American settlers. Newfoundland, for example, because of its proximity to America and its British fishing presence, was seen as a refuge by the Jamestown colonists when their second attempt at settlement failed in the face of troubled relations with natives.
(73) Also the early colonists of Massachusetts Bay were keenly aware of Newfoundland, used its harbours and fished on the Banks. In 1629, for example, the "Mayflower," the "Pilgrim," and another ship were sent by the Massachusetts colonists equipped with men and "lines, hooks, knives, boots, and barrels necessary for fishing; desiring our men may be employed either in harbour or upon the Bank [of Newfoundland] to make use thereof for lading our ships ..."
(74) The provisions trade with New England became also more and more active throughout the seventeenth-century.
(75) David Kirke observed New England's "great traffic with Newfoundland" and cited the potential of an accelerated trade with Virginia and New England as one of the reasons for "planting a colony in Newfoundland."
(76) Another possible indicator of a dissenting presence in Newfoundland has been the mention of Puritans in the letters of the Carmelite Father Simon Stock to Rome regarding the Avalon settlement.
(77) But with the publication of this entire correspondence by Luca Codignola it is clear that not a single reference seems to reflect a specific knowledge about organized Protestant dissenters in Newfoundland. Rather, the letters refer vaguely to a colonial presence and have in mind the American settlements. The most specific one among these references speaks about the emigration of 4000 Puritans from England but gives as their destination simply "the northern part of America."
(78) Thus, despite the proximity to the New England plantations, there is no documentary evidence for organized dissenting communities in Newfoundland until the time of Sir David Kirke. This situation changed only slightly in the 1640s and 1650s.
Newfoundland's first serious contact with dissenters took place in 1641, when a delegation of three Massachusetts Bay colonists were sent via Newfoundland to England to plead for relief. Two of the three agents were well-known Congregational clergymen: Reverend Hugh Peters, then pastor at Salem, Massachusetts, the future chief chaplain in Cromwell's army and opponent of Archbishop Laud at his trial, a preacher executed later himself for his alleged involvement in the death of King Charles I;
(79) and the dissenting minister at Roxbury, Massachusetts, Thomas Welde.
(80) Both men stood for an unyielding Protestantism, as their involvement in the notorious trial of Dame Anne Hutchinson, a seventeenth-century visionary and pacifist, had shown. The clergymen and their fellow agent, the Boston merchant William Hibbins,
(81) whose wife Anne was later executed for allegedly practising witchcraft, were accompanied by none less than Governor John Winthrop Jr.
(82) as well as the disbarred lawyer Thomas Lechford
(83) and forty other passengers from New England. Winthrop reports that "there being no ship which was to return right for England" the party "went to Newfoundland, expecting to go from thence in some fishing ships." The group departed on 3 June and arrived after a journey of 14 days in Newfoundland, presumably in one of the harbours on the Avalon peninsula's Southern Shore, but was too large to find immediately suitable transportation to England. Thus they "were forced to divide themselves and go from several parts of the island, as they could get shipping." While the ministers waited for transportation they preached to the fishermen in Newfoundland. John Winthrop wrote in the journal that forms the basis for his posthumously published History of New England from 1630 to 1649: The ministers preached to the seamen, etc., at the island, who were much affected with the word taught, and entertained them with all courtesy, as we understood by letters from them which came by a fishing ship to the Isles of Shales about the beginning of October.
(84) The activity of Reverends Peters and Welde represents, however, no premeditated preaching tour or missionary endeavour but occurred during their brief stay on the island. This occasional preaching they share with two other committed Congregationalist clergymen who visited Newfoundland on their way from Massachusetts to the West Indies and England. Prowse refers to the Rev. George Downing as having been invited to preach by "the Newfoundland Independent Church" as early as 1645.
(85) John Wood, in the Memoir of Henry Wilkes, writes likewise that Downing, while in Newfoundland, "received an invitation from the Congregationalists to settle as their pastor."
(86) The obvious source for Downing's presence must also have been John Winthrop's seventeenth-century History of New England from 1630 to 1649, which states the following about this consummate politician and future minister of Cromwell: The scarcity of good ministers in England, and want of employment for our new graduates [of Harvard College] here, occasioned some of them to look abroad. Three honest young men, good scholars, and very hopeful, viz. a younger son of Mr. Higginson, to England, and so to Holland, and after to the East Indies, a younger son of Mr. Buckley, a Batchelor of Arts to England, and Mr. George Downing, son of Mr. Emanuel Downing of Salem, Batchelor of Arts also, about twenty years of age, went in a ship to the West Indies to instruct the seamen. He went by Newfoundland, and so to Christophers and Barbados and Nevis, and being requested to preach in all these places, he gave such content, as he had large offers to stay with them. But he continued in the ship to England, and being a very able scholar, and of a ready wit and fluent utterance, he was soon taken notice of, and called to be a preacher in Sir Thomas Fairfax his army, to Colonel Okye his regiment.
(87) The quote does not speak, however, as alleged by Prowse and Wood about a specific dissenting body which one could classify as "the Newfoundland Independent Church." In fact the casual and transitional mention of Newfoundland in an account of a voyage of a twenty-year-old to the West Indies, suggests that the preaching of George Downing was an occasional affair rather than an invitation to become the minister of a well-defined church in Newfoundland. The next Congregationalist stayed also only briefly in Newfoundland, but his preaching seems to have been more purposeful. Rev. Richard Blinman (1608-87),
(88) a preacher from Wales and an Oxford graduate, had gone to New England in 1640 but became embroiled in several ecclesiastical disputes, necessitating several changes in locale, the latest from Gloucester, Massachusetts, to New London, Connecticut. The final doctrinal battle fought by this conservative dissenter in New England concerned the fundamental self-definition of American Puritans, whether to maintain the strict standards of private and public morality, or--through a so-called "half-way covenant"--accommodate the congregations with the social fact of being the established religion in several regions of colonial America and relax the membership requirements placed on individual members. Richard Blinman, like his friends John Davenport
(89) and John Winthrop Jr., was unwilling to concede any compromise and eventually was rejected by many of his own congregation in New London, which he left for Newfoundland in 1659. Here his preaching presence in Ferryland is documented in three letters, two of which are now lost, but one of them, to his close friend the Rev. John Davenport, of 22 August 1659, is summarized at length in the correspondence between John Davenport and Governor John Winthrop Jr. The other, a letter of the same date to Governor John Winthrop, has been preserved among the Winthrop Papers. Davenport writes to Winthrop: ... and to let you know that I have received a large letter from Mr. Blinman, dated Aug. 22, whereby I understand that God hath brought him to Newfoundland, in safety and health, and maketh his ministry acceptable to all the people there except some Quakers, and much desired and flocked unto. He hath made choice of a ship for Barnstable to his content, the master being godly.
(90) Since the letter of Blinman to John Winthrop from Ferryland has never been published before, I shall shall edit here in full, with the permission of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the section that is of special relevance to his Newfoundland stay.
(91) Honor'd Sir (....) We landed in Ferry land harbor the 20th day in the evening after or loosing from New London; and I suppose we had, 3 dayes sooner if we had not falne to the westw[ard?]s of Cape de Race into Placentia Bay. The Lord brought us all safe, & well; the moth'r with the litle ones, who had litle seasickness at all, & my selfe, Beyond all expectation none considerable, the children some of them fatter, then when we set sayle, & through the great mercy of o'r God, the great inconveniencies o'r friends feared, were removed; & those that were (especially in so small a vessel) the Lord helped us so to beare them, that they were not overburdensome part of one night & of one day, we had a strong gale, & a growne sea, th[a]t we could not cook, o'r provisions as at oth'r times, & then my wife began to grow faint; but the Lord shewed us mercey in mitigating wind & sea, th[a]t we got some hot victualls for her & the sucking child, & so both were refreshed. It would be too long to give yo'r wo[rshi]p account of all particul'rs in o'r voyage; but the Lord was wonderfully gracious to us. Being arrived, we were welcommed, not onely by o'r friends, viz: good m[aster] Keeny,
(92) Ralph Parker
(93) (who also came to meet us & towed us up) but also by the Lady Kirke,
(94) & sundry masters of ships and oth'rs, whom we never saw, togeth'r with an offer of passage for me & my family to England, in sundry ships of the west-parts; w[he]r[e]in I could not but sea a gracious smile of God. We have pitch[e]t upon mr Denis
(95) who was in the Bay, who arrived since we did, I hearing a [fol. 1 verso] good report of him. 3 Convoys already come by Bay of Bulls [?]. newes you have, though not so late, yet more certaine, than we have, w[he]r[e]by you (I doubt not;) understand the great revolutions in Engl: - New Engl: - prayers & humiliations have pr'vayed much w[i]th God formerly, & I trust, they will so still. One Capt: [illegible] that lately came over to call Governor Treworthy
(96) to account for arrears to the Proprieto's, told me, that mr Hugh Peter[s]
(97) is about 4 moneths ago [4 words marked through by ink and entirely illegible] in sore horr'r of spirit crying out of him s:[elf] as damned & confessing strange activitys of wch he is guilty. Sit fedes penes authorem. Mary Fisher the Quaker,
(98) & anoth'r named Esther
(99) are arrived at St Jones-harbor, & there they vent their opinions. I heare 2 or 3 m[aster]s of ships are perverted by them. Some have sent to me, to desire me to come over, but I see it not my way. I expect them here dayly. I heare, that some m[aster]s of ships, forbid their men to heare them. They have both beene (as they report) at Constantinople, & in oth'r places among the Turks; wch report fits [?] wth letters I saw at New haven.
Since my writing the former part of my letter I have rec'd a letter from Mr Denis, with whom I am to go, who in his owne name, & ye name of many oth'r m[as]t[er]s of ships in St Jones harbo'r, doe earnestly importune me to come over to them, & presse me w[i]th such arguments, that I cannot but see a call of God in it, & I am to goe suddenly thither, by a boat wch they have sent in purpose for me. People flock from neighbouring harbo'rs to heare the word of God, & attend diligently; what fruit the Lord will give, is knowne unto himself. I cannot enlarge by reason of my intended voyage to morrow morning.
Ferryland-harbo'r Aug. 22. 1659. yo'r wo'ps to his power
Richard Blinman Blinman stayed in Newfoundland only until the late fall of 1659, for in a letter to Governor Winthrop of 9 March 1660, the Puritan minister wrote that it "pleased God of his grace to bring me & all mine safe to England from New found land in 23 dayes, to Appledore neere Barnstaple, & the winter coming on, & my youngest child falling sick (who is now recovered, the Lord blessing yo'r purging powder) stayd my journey into Wales."
(100) He wintered with his friend William Bartlett, the Congregational minister at Bideford. After a short journey into his native Wales, which did not secure him a ministerial position as he had hoped, Blinman opened a medical practice in Bristol, where he also died in 1687.
(101) Richard Blinman is the only Congregationalist minister for whom a short but decisive preaching presence in Newfoundland can be documented. His stay there was prepared or at least helped by two members of his New London, Connecticut, congregation, William Keeny and Ralph Parker, masters of ships who either fished in Newfoundland waters or traded goods in Ferryland. Blinman's preaching success does not permit, however, any firm conclusion about the religious make-up of his listeners. All that can be said is that he seems to have had a successful preaching engagement that summer under the auspices of the boat masters and Lady Kirke. Also the immediate offer to Blinman of a passage for him and his family to England, which he took up later in the year, suggests that his stay was never intended as a service to a dissenting congregation in Newfoundland. And the inconclusive effects of his preaching, indicated by the statement--"People flock from neighbouring harbo'rs to heare the word of God, & attend diligently; what fruit the Lord will give, is knowne unto himself."--rules out any organized religious community in Ferryland or elsewhere on the island.
A most interesting sidelight is cast by Blinman upon the missionary activity of Quaker women in St. John's. The reference to the two Quaker pioneers Hester Biddle and Mary Fisher widens our knowledge of the Quaker presence in Newfoundland. Hester Biddle, a Quaker visionary, who visited at one time King Louis XIV of France, went, according to George Fox, in 1656 for the first time "to the new founde lande:"
(102) In the same year intelligence from Lisbon to Secretary of State John Thurloe speaks of "an English shipp come in here from Newfoundland. The master hath beene on board of us. There is not, they say, one person in the shipp, officer or marriner, but are all Quakers."
(103) The letter of Blinman confirms a subsequent trip of Hester Biddle and Mary Fisher, the future wife of the Baptist Quaker convert William Bayley, a merchant from Poole. The preaching of these two women in St. John's was successful enough to convert "2 or 3 masters of ships" and initiate counter measures by the rest, including the invitation to Blinman to come to St. John's, which according to his letter to Winthrop he was prepared to do. Newfoundland remained also on the list of support-worthy Quaker missionary endeavours in England. On 25 February 1660 a collection was recommended for Quaker missionary activities at the annual meeting in Skipton, which listed Newfoundland among the countries where such activity was taking place.
(104) Quaker individuals and families from the Poole region and from Ireland continued to play a regionally limited but prominent role in eighteenth-century Newfoundland, when one considers the activities of the Quaker minister and salmon fishing pioneer George Skeffington of Bonavista; the influence and presence of the Poole merchant families of White, Taverner, Vallis, Jeffrey, Mifflen, and Colbourne in Bay de Verde or Trinity; the Harrisson, Penney, and Neave families in Placentia; and the Irish Quaker families, most notably the merchant houses of Strangman, Courtenay and Ridgway as well as the Jacobs, Penrose and Harvey families engaged in the Waterford-Newfoundland provisions trade.
(105) But the brief stay of London Congregationalists and the brief preaching activity of Hugh Peters, Thomas Welde, George Downing, and Richard Blinman in Newfoundland demonstrate that the presence of Congregationalists and Puritans in Newfoundland from 1597 to 1659 appears to have been occasional and without any firm institutional footing. This situation did not change during the second half of the seventeenth century. Thus the picture painted by Anspach and especially by Prowse and Wood of a substantial and organized "Puritan" or Separatist presence in seventeenth-century Newfoundland is highly unlikely. Only with massive immigration, a resident merchant presence, and a greater institutional development did Quaker, Methodist, and Congregational dissenters have a social and cultural impact during the second half of the eighteenth century.
1. Lewis Amadeus Anspach, A History of the Island of Newfoundland: Containing a Description of the Island, the Banks, the Fisheries, and Trade of Newfoundland, and the Coast of Labrador (London: By the Author, 1819), 86.
2. Prowse, History of the Churches in Newfoundland (London: Macmillan, 1895), 49.
4. John Wood, Memoir of Henry Wilkes, D.D., LL.D.: His Life and Times (Montreal: F.E. Grafton; London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1887), 2-3.
5. Prowse, History of the Churches in Newfoundland , 26.
6. Ibid., 1.
7. D.W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland From the English, Colonial and Foreign Records (London: Macmillan, 1895 [reprinted 1972]), 101.222
8. Ralph Greenlee Lounsbury, The British Fishery at Newfoundland: 1634-1763 (New Haven:Yale University Press, 1934 [reprinted 1969]), 207.
9. A. L. Rowse, The Elizabethans and America: The Trevelyan Lectures at Cambridge 1958 (London: Macmillan, 1959), 167.
10. R.J. Lahey, "The Role of Religion in Lord Baltimore's Colonial Enterprise" Maryland Historical Magazine, 72/4(1977), 492-511, 494-5.
11. In the article mentioned above. See also Raymond J. Lahey, "Avalon: Lord Baltimore's Colony in Newfoundland," in G. M. Story, Early European Settlement and Exploitation in Atlantic Canada: Selected Papers (St. John's: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1982), 115-37.
12. Luca Codignola, The Coldest Harbour of the Land: Simon Stock and Lord Baltimore's Colony in Newfoundland, 1621-1649 (Kingston & Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1988).
13. For a concise statement of the definitional issues and the change in scholarly opinion regarding Puritanism and Separatism during Elizabethan times, see Susan Doran, Elizabeth I and Religion: 1558-1603 (London & New York, 1994).
14. R.J. Lahey, "The Role of Religion in Lord Baltimore's Colonial Enterprise," 506-8.
15. E. Hunt, "Stourton, Erasmus," Dictionary of Canadian Biography [hereafter DCB], Vol. 1: 1000 to 1700 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966), 614.
16. Gillian T. Cell (edit.), Newfoundland Discovered: English Attempts at Colonisation, 1610-1630 (London: The Hakluyt Society, 1982), 284-5, 293, 295.
17. Lahey, "The Role of Religion in Lord Baltimore's Colonial Enterprise," 495.
18. On John Slany and his brother Humphrey see Gillian T. Cell, "The Newfoundland Company: A Study of Subscribers to a Colonizing Venture," The William and Mary Qarterly 22(October 1965), 615.
19. "Extracts from the Records of the Virginia Company Concerning the Selection of Ministers to Send to Virginia," 16 Jan. 1621/22, Vol. 1: 575; 28 Jan. 1621/22, Vol. 1: 591; 10 June 1622, Vol. 3: 651; 20 Jan. 1622/23, Vol. 4: 15; published in George Maclaren Brydon, Virginia's Mother Church and the Political Conditions Under which it Grew: An Interpretation of the Records of the Colony of Virginia and of the Anglican Church of that Colony 1607-1727, 2 Vols. (Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 1947). Vol. 2: 420-1.
20. Ibid., 2:420.
21. Ibid., 2: 420-1.
22. Ibid., 2: 421.
23. John Guy to Sir Percival Willoughby, 6 October 1610, in Cell, Newfoundland Discovered, 64.
24. On Sir William Vaughan, see Gillian T. Cell's biographical article in DCB, 1: 654-7.
25. Orpheus Iunior [= William Vaughan], The Golden Fleece ... (London: W. Stansby, M. Flesher et al. for Francis Williams, 1626), Part I, chapter 17, 133-7; cf. Part III, 87.
26. William Vaughan, The Church Militant ... (London: T. Paine for H. Blunden, 1640), Preface (unpaginated).
27. William Alexander, An Encouragement to Colonies (London: William Stansby