RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTIONS TO GOVERNORS OF NEWFOUNDLAND: 1729-1786

Edited by Hans Rollmann

I. Religious Liberty

(a) You are to permit a Liberty of conscience to all persons, except Papists, so they be contented with a quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the same, not giving offence or scandal to the government.

Commentary:

Version (a) (Osborne to Montagu) follows expressis verbis the clause on religious liberty enjoined to colonial governors since 1690 (where not noted otherwise, from 1680-1690 without the "except Papists" clause) and found in the instructions to governors of the following colonies (cf. Labaree, II, 494, Nr. 714): Bahamas: 1729 ff.; Barbados: 1680-1707, 1710 ff.; Bermuda: 1690 ff., without the "except Papists" clause from 1686-1690; Georgia: 1754-American Revolution (hereafter: Am. Rev.); Jamaica: 1681-1685, 1685-1689 without the "except Papists" clause; Leeward Islands: 1689 ff., 1686-1689 without the "except Papists" clause; Maryland: 1703-1715, 1691-1703 without the "except Papists" clause; Massachusetts: 1701-Am. Rev.; New England: 1686-1688 without the "except Papists" clause; New Hampshire: 1692-Am. Rev.; New Jersey: 1702-Am. Rev.; New York: 1690-Am. Rev.; North Carolina: 1730-Am. Rev.; Nova Scotia: 1749 ff. without the "except Papists" clause; St. John: 1769 ff.; South Carolina: 1720-Am. Rev.; Virginia: 1682-1685, 1690-Am. Rev., 1685-1690 without the "except Papists" clause.

In Newfoundland, the clause remained unchanged from 14 May 1729 (Gov. Henry Osborne [C.O. 195/7, p. 199]) to 5 March 1776 (i.e., 1779; Gov. John [C.O. 195/10, p. 351, indicating that Gov. Montagu's commissions were identical to those of Gov. Robert Duff, C.O. 195/10, p. 300, thus including the instruction on religious liberty first issued to Gov. Osborne]).

(b) It being our intention that all persons inhabiting our islands under your government should have full liberty of conscience and the free exercise of all such modes of religious worship as are not prohibited by law. We do therefore hereby require you to permit all persons within our said islands to have such liberty and to exercise such modes of religious worship as are not prohibited by law provided they be contented with a quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the same not giving offence or scandal to the government. (Gov. Richard Edwards [C.O. 195/10, pp. 383-384] of 27 April 1779).

Textual Variants:

The instructions to Gov. John Elliott (C.O. 195/11, pp. 18-19) of 2 June 1786 contain the following variants in the religious liberty clause:

A -- Add "and frequenting" and read: ". . .inhabiting and frequenting our islands. . ."

B -- Omit "therefore" and read: "We do hereby require. . ."

C -- Omit "the" and read: ". . .or scandal to government."

Commentary:

Gov. John Campbell issued the following instructions to the magistrates of Newfoundland (GN 2/1/A, Vol. 10, p. 138): "Pursuant to the King's instructions to me, you are to allow all persons inhabiting this island to have full liberty of conscience, and the free exercise of all such modes of religious worship as are not prohibited by law, provided they be contented with a quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the same, not giving offence or scandal to Government." Cf. also C.O. 194/35 [1780-1784], p. 631, and USPGFP Journal, Vol. 23 [18 Feb. 1785], p. 43.

II: Prevention of Vice and Immorality and the

Encouragement of Religion:

[a] The Right Reverend Father in God, Edmund Lord Bishop of London, having presented a petition to his late Majesty humbly beseeching him to send instructions to the governors of all the several plantations in America that they cause all laws made against blasphemy, prophaneness, adultery, fornication, polygamy, incest, prophanation of the Lord's Day, swearing, and drunkenness in their respective governments to be vigorously executed; and we thinking it highly just that all persons who shall offend in any of the particulars aforesaid should be prosecuted and punished for their said offences; it is therefore our will and pleasure that you take due care for the punishment of the (a)forementioned vices,(1) by presentment upon oath to be made to the justices of the peace in their sessions by their constables or other inferior officers of the several harbours at proper times of the year to be appointed for that purpose.(2) And for the further discouragement of vice and encouragement of virtue and good living you are not to admit any person to act as a justice of the peace in the island whose ill fame or conversation may occasion scandal.

[b] And especially you shall take care that the Lord's Day be devoutly and duly observed, that the Book of Common Prayer as by law established in this Kingdom be read each Sunday and holiday, and the Blessed Sacrament administered according to the rites of the Church of England in all such chapels or public places of worship as are already settled there.(3)

Textual Variants:

A -- Omit "his late Majesty" and substitute "Our late Royal Father" from 30 April 1735 (Gov. Fitzroy Henry Lee [C.O. 195/7, p. 363]) to 1 May 1761 (Gov. James Webb).

B -- Omit "Our late Royal Father" and substitute "King George the first" from 1 May 1761 (Gov. James Webb [C.O. 195/9, p. 27]) to 21 March 1763 (Gov. Thomas Graves).

C -- Omit from beginning to "our will and pleasure" and substitute "It is our will and pleasure that you do cause the laws made against blasphemy, prophaneness, adultery, fornication, polygamy, incest, prophanation of the Lord's Day, swearing and drunkenness to be vigorously executed and . . .," from 21 March 1763 (Gov. Thomas Graves [C.O. 195/9, pp. 105-106]) to 2 June 1786 (Gov. John Elliott [C.O. 195/11, pp. 19-20]).

Commentary:

This religious clause (cf. Labaree, II, pp. 504-505, Nr. 729, and pp. 483-484, Nr. 696) fuses two common colonial instructions and modifies them to fit the absence of a legislative assembly or council in Newfoundland, the island's judicial system of justices of the peace, and the sparse Anglican clerical presence on the island. The following notes correspond to the raised numbers of the text.

III: Ministers to Be in Due Orders

And if any orthodox minister there shall appear to give scandal either by his doctrine or manners shall preach or administer the holy Sacraments in any orthodox church or chapel, without being in due orders, you shall give account thereof to the Lord Bishop of London.

Commentary:

This instruction (cf. Labaree, II, 486-487, Nr. 701), ensuring the correct ordination and propriety of Anglican ministers, follows closely the common colonial formula: "You are to inquire whether there be any minister within your government who preaches and administers the Sacrament in any orthodox church or chapel without being in due orders, and to give an account thereof to the said Bishop of London." The instruction, which existed in all colonies, can be traced to the 1680 Bermuda instruction (cf. Labaree, II, 486-487). Whether the underlined Newfoundland modifications reflect the troublesome relations between the first S.P.G. minister, the Rev. John Jackson, and Admiral Lloyd, awaits further formhistorical scrutiny but seems not unlikely.

IV: Table of Marriages

And you are to take especial care that a table of marriages established by the canons of the Church of England be hung up in every orthodox church or chapel and duly observed.

Commentary:

With the exception of the addendum "or chapel" this instruction (cf. Labaree, II, 487, Nr. 702) follows expressis verbis the instructions to governors of New York (1701-Am. Rev.) and Nova Scotia (1764 ff.). It can be found as early as 1680 in the instructions to the governor of Barbados and is included in all other colonial instructions with the following addendum: "And you are to endeavour to get a law passed in the assembly of that province, if not already done, for the strict observance of the said table." Again, the absence of a legislative assembly in Newfoundland explains the omission of the preceding text. That the first part of the common instruction was included in Newfoundland from 1729 on reflects the reality of settlement despite a vacillating policy of non-settlement. The provision was especially relevant for Newfoundland in view of the constant complaints of polyandry throughout the 18th century and the indiscriminate solemnization of marriages by naval officers.


1. The first part of this instruction ("The Right Reverend . . . may occasion scandal"), with the underlined Newfoundland provisions and modifications, is a common colonial instruction. It was first submitted to the Board of Trade on 6 June 1727 as an Additional Circular Instruction, but, upon the death of King George I, entered the newly drafted general instructions to governors (cf. C.O. 324/11, pp. 40-41). It is found without the Newfoundland provisions and addenda in the instructions to governors of the following colonies: Bahamas: 1729 ff.; Georgia: 1754-Am. Rev.; North Carolina: 1730-Am. Rev.; Nova Scotia: 1749-1764, and in a modified version, from 1764 ff.; St. John: 1769 ff. (Cf. Labaree, II, 504-505, Nr. 729).

2. This Newfoundland provision replaces a formula employed in those colonies that had a legislative assembly and church courts capable of enforcing the preceding injunctions. In Newfoundland, they were enforced by magistrates and constables. Formhistorically, also Nova Scotia has a special provision introduced after "vices" in its post-1764 instructions. On the institution of Justices of the Peace see also the Nova Scotia instructions from 1749-1756 (cf. Labaree, II, 299-300, Nr. 429).

3. This part of the instruction resembles most closely those that encourage the Anglican Church throughout the colonies (cf. Labaree, II, 482-484, Nrs. 694 and 696) and that of the Island of St. John (from 1769 on) in particular (cf. Labaree, II, 483-484, Nr. 696). Again, the Newfoundland modifications can be understood in the context of a rudimentary Anglican presence on the island which did not progress in the 18th century to the glebe and vestry system of the American Colonies.


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