Scottish merchants in the Newfoundland trade, 1800-1835 : a colonial community in transition

Orr, Jeffrey Aurdon (1987) Scottish merchants in the Newfoundland trade, 1800-1835 : a colonial community in transition. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

A distinctive Scottish merchant community survived into this century and trace elements of their presence are still manifest today. This community had deep roots. Regular Scottish trade with Newfoundland extends back to the American War of Independence, and particularly its aftermath. The lucrative Scottish traffic in tobacco with the southern colonies was arrested during the war and some Clyde merchants redirected their trade to British North America, supplying goods to the garrisons and to the British cod fishery. This fishery was by then long established in eastern Newfoundland. Scottish trade expanded during the Napoleonic Wars as Newfoundland came to dominate the salt cod markets. Prices for fish increased dramatically early in the nineteenth century and Scottish merchants were lured to St. John's and its outports to manage the trade. Like the vast majority of other British merchants they did not settle permanently, at least not initially, but as residency in Newfoundland expanded during and after the Napoleonic Wars Scottish merchants transferred their headquarters to St. John's and established a permanent community there. -- This thesis examines the origins and growth of Scottish trade with St. John's during the transition from a temporary to a permanent resident merchant community between c. 1780 and 1835. It focuses on the emergence of Greenock as a leading supply centre for Newfoundland early in the nineteenth century, and its subsequent decline as other ports dislodged British and Irish ports from a long-standing trade by the 1830s. Most of the supplies sent to Newfoundland by Scottish merchants were sent on Scottish ships and cod and cod oil were carried to the markets on these vessels. This thesis reconstructs the spatial patterns of Scottish shipping in the North Atlantic, from the initial tentative and mainly shuttle voyages between the Clyde and St. John's in the eighteenth century to more elaborate multilateral routes, integrating three or more distinct and widely scattered areas around the Atlantic into the trading network in the 1830s. -- The transition from temporary to a resident merchant society was a slow process. Initially the Scottish mercantile presence at St. John's comprised largely young unmarried male clerks or agents for Clyde houses, living over stores on the waterfront, serving out terms of apprenticeship. Typically these men returned to the homeland, joined the parent company as junior partners or set up as merchants on their own account. After around 1815, however, they began to settle in St. John's. They brought out their families, built dwelling houses and expanded their premises on the waterfront. Scots registered more and more vessels in St. John's throughout the 1820s and 1830s as their residency increased. From 1779 to 1835, close to forty Scottish firms were established. At their peak in 1814 there were twelve companies operating, controlling one-seventh of the total Newfoundland trade. They dealt with English and Irish planters and their servants in the outharbours through a network of Scottish and other agents, advancing them supplies in the spring on a promise of their fish in the fall. They also dealt extensively with other merchants, traders and artisans in St. John's. In this they were typical of large St. John's cod merchants but they did not have the advantage of English and Irish merchants in Newfoundland who could trade with their fellow countrymen. The Scots in Newfoundland did not fish. They were never more than a tiny minority and focused almost entirely on international trade. But by 1835 they were a potent mercantile force in the Newfoundland trade. -- The data for this thesis come from a wide range of archival sources. Lloyd’s Register of Shipping and St. John's ship registers were used to reconstruct the patterns of shipping and a profile of Scottish shipowners in the cod trade. Newspapers, government correspondence, court records, vital statistics, wills and business records provided a rich store of information on the merchant community through the early nineteenth century.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5522
Item ID: 5522
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 135-144.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Geography
Date: 1987
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Merchants--Newfoundland and Labrador--History; Scots--Newfoundland and Labrador--History; Newfoundland and Labrador--Commerce--History

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