John Mason's Map of
Newfoundland



A BRIEFE DISCOURSE OF THE NEW-FOUND-LAND

A BRIEFE DISCOURSE of the New-found-land,


with the situation, temperature,
and commodities thereof,
inciting our Nation to goe
forward in that hope-
full plantation begunne.

Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter.

By IOHN MASON




EDINBURGH, Printed by Andro Hart. 1620.

/[3]/

TO THE RIGHT

WORSHIPFULL SIR

IOHN SCOTT

of Scots-Tarvet,
KNIGHT. &c.


SIR, you are like to haue none other accompt for the present than such as Marchant-Factors, after bad markets returne, that is, papers for payment, for liuers lines, The which though not so acceptable as more solide returnes, yet giues some satisfaction for the expenses of time questionable. I haue sent you a discourse of our Countrie penned at the request of friends, for the better satisfaction of our Nobilitie, vnpolished and rude, bearing the countries badge where it was hatched, onely clothed with plainnesse and trueth. I intreat your fauourable acceptation thereof, as your wonted clemencie hath [89] beene to the Author, if you thinke it may doe good by incouraging any of your Countrie to the interprise, I am willing you publish it, other wise let it bee buried in silence as you shall thinke meetest, and esteeme mee still one of whome you haue power to dispose.

IOHN MASON.


/[4]/
To the Reader


For as much as there bee sundrie relations of the New-found-land and the commodities thereof, Some too much extolling it, some too much debasing it, preferring the temperature of the aire thereof before ours, the hopes of commodities there without paines and mineralles, as if they were apparent (which as I deny to bee a veritie, yet I affirme not to bee impossible) with other narrations dissenting from the trueth, the which although done out of a good affection, yet had they better beene vndone. I haue therefore (gentle Reader) hoping of thy fauourable construction, set downe in few and plaine tearmes out of that experience I haue gained in three yeares and seuenth [sic] monthes residence there, the trueth, as thou shalt finde by proofe thereof, to the which I recommend thee and vs all to his Grace, that is able and will plant those that feare him in a better Kingdome. Farewell.

Thine and his Countries in part, not whollie his owne.
IOHN MASON.


/[5]/

A BRIEFE DISCOVRSE

of the Newfoundland, with the
Situation, temperature, and commodities there
-of inciting our Nation to goe forward in
that hopefull plantation begunne.


THE Countrie commonly knowne and called by the name of Newfoundland, albeit it is so much frequented and resorted yearely to, by thousands of our Nation and others, which haue scarcely so much as a superficiall knowledge thereof (onely so much as concerneth their fishings excepted) is an Iland or Ilands as some plats haue described it, situate on the front of America, betwixt 46. and 52. degrees of Northerly latitude, of the bignes of Ireland, the Eastermost side thereof bounded with the Ocean extendeth it selfe nearest North and South: the variation allowed 100. Leagues, the South face deuided from the Iles of Cap. Bretone by the Gulfe of Sainct Lowrence a straigth of 27. Leagues ouer lyeth West. and by North northerly, and East and by South Southerly in length 77. Leagues, on the West part imbraced by the Grand-bay stretching it selfe Northeast and Southwest 75. Leagues. and on the North confined by the Norther arme of the Grand-bay which separateth it from the continent of Noua /[6]/ Francia making a fret of 7. Leagues wide, & is described by the Rhombe of W. and by North and E. and by S. 25. Leag. Almost of a Triangular forme sauing that many bays & Inlets making incroachment haue disfigured the face therof with Scars, eating into the land into 40 leagues space on the South part where we haue searched 30 as good Harbours as the world affords. The longitude thereof reackoned from the westermost part of the Insula fortunata is 330 degrees, distant in the Line of West & by the South from our Meridian 45. degrees by common account which in the midle parallell of the difference the Latitude betwixt the lands end of England and the bodie of Newfoundland at 39. one halfe miles answerable to each degree in the same maketh 1764. miles or 588 Leagues. The aire subtle & wholesome, the Summer season pleasant conforme to the like latitude in Europe, sauing that ye woodie places in Iune & Iulie are somewhat pestered with small Flies bred of the rottenes of ruined woode & moysture like as in Russia. The Winter degenerating therfrom, being as cold & snowy as 60 degrees in Europe, & of the like temperature in December, Ian. Febr. March, as the northermest [sic] parts in Scotland. viz. The Hebrides and the Orcades wherin I haue twise wintered, or of the Coast betwixt Hamburgh & the mouth of the Sownd or Nose of Norway: yet more comfortable for the length of the day in Winter, which exceedeth theirs three hourse at the least. And albeit it be thus cold in the Winter season by accidentall meanes, contrarie to the naturall position thereof in the Spheare, yet it is tollerable, as by experience, so that there needs no Stoaues as in Germanie: Likewise fruitefull enough both of Sommer and Winter corne, an example for our confirmation thereof we haue in Poland one of the greatest corne Countries of Europe & yet as cold and subject to freizing as Newfoundland, as also our owne experience both in Wheate, Rye, Barlie, Oates, and Pease, which haue growen and ripened there as well and als [sic] timely as in Yorkshire in England. And for grouth of Garden herbes of diuers sorts as Hysope, Time, Parsely, Clarie, Nepe, /[7]/ french Mallowes, Buglosse, Collombines, Wormewood, &c. There is at this present of 3. yeares old of my sowing, likewise Rosemary, Fenell, Sweete marierim, Bassell, Purselyn, Lettise, and all other Herbes & Rootes: as torneps, Pasnepes, Caretts, and Radishes we haue found to growe well there in the Sommer season. The common wilde herbes of the Countrie are Angelica, Violets, Mints, Scabius, Yarrow, Ferne, Salsaparilla, with diuers other sorts whereof I am ignorant; But suppose would for variety and rariety compose another Herball; of these kinds wee haue onely made vse of certain great green leaues plentifully growing in the woods, and a great Roote growing in fresh water ponds, both good against the Skiruye, and an other prettie Roote with a blew stalke and leaues of the nature of a Skirret growing in a dry Beachy ground, good meate boyled: The Countrie fruites wild, are cherries small, whole groaues of them Filberds good, a small pleasant fruite, called a Peare, Damaske Roses single very sweet, excellent Straberries, and Hartleberries with aboundance of Rasberries, and Gooseberries somewhat better than ours in England, all which replanted would be much inlarged. There is also a kind of wild Coranies, wild Pease or Feetches in many places which we haue both found good meat and medecine for the Skiruy; The Land of the North parts most mountanye & woodye very thick of Firre trees, Spruce, Pine Lereckhout, Aspe, Hasill, a kinde of stinking wood, the three formest goodly Timber and most conuenient for Building. No Oakes, Ashe, Beech, or Ellmes, haue we seene or heard of; the greatest parts of the Plaines are marish and boggs, yet apt to be drawen dry by means of many fresh Lakes intermixt which paye tribute to the Sea; and on the brinks of these Lakes, through which the water draines away from the rootes of the Grasse, it florisheth, in the other parts of the Plaines where the water standeth and killeth the growth of the Grasse with his coldnesse it is rushie and seggy; in some parts is barren, & mossie ground, but that that is firme and dry beareth good grasse. The /[8]/ Spring beginneth in the end of Aprill, & Haruest continueth while Nouember, I haue seene September and October much more pleasant than in England; the South part is not so mountanous nor so woodie, for being a little passed vp from the Sea coast the continent hath champion ground for 40. miles together in North and South extent of the like nature of the former, hauing pretty Groues and many fresh lakes replenished with Eeles & Salmon-Troutes great, and in great plentie. The Beastes are Ellans, Follow-deare [sic], Hares, Beares harmeles, Wolues, Foxes, Beauers, Catnaghenes excellent, Otteres, and a small beast like a Ferret whose excrement is Muske: And the Plantations haue prettie stoare of Swine and Goates. The Fowles are Eagles, Falcons, Tassills, Marlins, a great Owle much deformed, a lesser Owle, Bussards, Gripes, Osprayes which diue for Fishes into the Water, Rauens, Crowes, wild Geese, Snipes, Teales, Twillockes, excellent wilde Duckes of diuers sorts and aboundance, some whereof rare and not to be found in Europe, Their particulars too tedious to relate, all good meate, Partriches white in Winter, and gray in Summer, greater than ours, Butters, blacke Birds with redd breastes, Phillidas, Wrens, Swallowes, Iayes, with other small Birds, and 2. or 3. excellent kinds of Beach Birds very fat and sweet, & at the plantations English Pigeons. The sea fowles, are Gulls white and gray, Penguins, Sea Pigeons, Ice Birds, Bottle noses, with other sortes strange in shape, yet all bowntifull to vs with their Egges as good as our Turkie or Hens, where with the Ilelands [sic] are well replenished. But of all, the most admirable is the Sea, so diuersified with seuerall sorts of Fishes abounding therein, the consideration whereof is readie to swallow vp and drowne my senses not being able to comprehend or expresse the riches thereof. For could one acre therof be inclosed with the Creatures therein in the moneths of Iune, Iulie, and August, it would exceed one thousand acres of the best Pasture with the stocke thereon which we haue in England. May hath Herings on [sic] equall to 2. of ours, Lants /[9]/ and Cods in good quantity. Iune hath Capline, a fish much resembling Smeltes in forme and eating, and such aboundance dry on Shoare as to lade Carts, in some partes pretty store of Salmond, and Cods so thicke by the shoare that we heardlie haue beene able to row a Boate through them, I haue killed of them with a Pike; Of these, three men to Sea in a Boate with some on Shoare to dresse and dry them in 30. dayes will kill commonlie betwixt 25. and thirty thousand, worth with the Oyle arising from them 100 or 120. pound. And the fish and Traine in one Harbour called Sainct Iohns is yearly in the Sommer worth 17, or 18. thousand pounds. Iulie, and so till Nouember, hath Macrill in aboundance; one thereof as great as two of ours, August hath great large Cods but not in such aboundance as the smaller, which continueth with some little decreasing till December; What should I speake of a kinde of Whales called Gibberts, Dogfish, Porposes, Hering-Hogges, Squides a rare kinde of fish, at his mouth squirting mattere forth like Inke, Flownders, Crabbes, Cunners, Catfish, Millers, thunnes &c. Of al which there are innumberable in the Summer season; Likewise of Lobsters plentie, and this last yeare stoare of Smelts not hauing beene knowne there before. I haue also seene Tonnie fish in Newland; now of shell fish there is Scalupes, Musseles, Vrsenas, Hens, Periwinkles &c. Here we see the chiefe fishing with his great commoditie expressed, which falleth so fitly in the Summer season betwixt seed-time and Haruest that it cannot be any hinderance to either. I haue heard some countries commended for their two fowld Haruest, which heare thou hast, although in a different kinde, yet both as profitable, I (dare say) [sic] as theirs so much extolled, if the right course be taken; & well fareth, that country say I, which in one months time with reasonable paines, wil pay both landlords rent, seruants wages, and all Houshold charges. But peraduenture some squeaysie stomake will say, Fishing is a beastly trade & vnseeming a Gentleman, to whom I answere (Bonus odor luti cum lucro) & let them propund the Holanders /[10]/ to themselues for example whose Countrie is so much inriched by it; others say the Countrie is barren, but they are deceiued, for Terra quae tegit se ipsam tegit Dominum, and the great aboundance of Woodes and wilde Fruites which exceedingly florish there proue the contrary. And what thogh the fertility of the soyle and temperature of the Climate be inferiour to Virginia, yet for foure maine Reasons to be laid downe it is to be parallelled to it, if not preferred before it, the which we will heere propound. 1 The first reason is the nearenes to our owne home, which naturally we are so much addicted vnto, being but the halfe of the way to Virginia, hauing a conuenient passage for three seasonable Monthes, March, Aprill, and May, which alwayes accomodate faire windes to passe thether, sometime in 14. or 20. dayes, seldome in thirtie dayes. Likewise the commodious returne in Iune, Iulie, August, September, October, and Nouember, sometimes in 12. 16. 20. and now and then in thirtie dayes. 2. The great intercourse of trade by our Nation these three-score years and vpwards, in no small numbers frequenting the New-found land, and daylie increasing, with the likelinesse thereof to continue, fish being a staple commoditie with vs, and so sellable in other countries yearlie imploying 3000. thousand [sic] Sea-men and breeding new daylie, also fraighting three hundreth Ships in that voyage, and releuing of 20000. people moe [sic] here in England (for most of these fishers are maried and haue a charge of Children, and liue by this meanes not being able to gaine halfe so much by another labour) furthermore the reuenew that groueth to the King by the customes of the French, Spanish and Straights goods imported, from the proceede of this fish trade suppose at the least to the value of ten thousand pounds yearely. 3 The conueniency of transporting plantors thether at the old rate, ten shillings the man, and twentie shillings to find him victual thether, likewise other commodities by shippes /[11]/ that goe sackes at ten shilling per tunne out, and thirtie shillings home, whereas Virginia and Birmooda fraightes, are fiue pound the man and three pound the tunne. 4 Fourthly and lastly, Securitie from foraine and domesticke enemies, there being but few Saluages in the north, and none in the south parts of the Countrie; by whom the planters as yet neuer suffered damage, against whom (if they should seeke to trouble vs,) a small fortification will serue being but few in number, and those onely Bow men. Also if any Warres should happen betwixt vs and other Nations, wee neede not feare rooting out. For the Yce is a Bulwarke all Aprill commonlie and after that during the whole Summer wee haue a garison of 9. or 10. 1000 of our owne Nation with many good and warlike Shippes, who of necessitie must defend the fishing season for their liuings sake, as they alwayes formerlei haue done in the Warres with Spaine. And afterwards in the monthes of Haruest and Winter the winds are our friends and will hardlie suffer any to approach vs, the which if they should, the cold opposite to the nature of the Spainard [sic] will giue him but cold Intertainement; neither will the Plantours be altogether puffed vp with careless securitie, but fortifie in some measure knowing that Non sunt securi qui dant sua Colla securi. Nowe hauing formerly layed downe the temperature of the Aire and disposition of the Weather in the Winter season to be cold and consequently different from other places of the same situation vnder the same Parallel in Europe, and by experience answerable to 59. or 60. degrees thereof. It will be expected that I should shew some reasons concerning the same which according to mine opinion (submitting my selfe to better Iudgements) I will set downe; It being a generall rule approued through America that any place vnder the same Parallel of another place in Europe is as cold as those places which are situate in 12. or 13. degrees to the North wards thereof, and the same rule holdeth a like on /[12]/ either side of the Equinoctiall. For example, the straigts of Magelan in 54. to the South of the Equinoctiall, are more cold, snowie and boysterous than any part of Europe in 65. Likewise on this side the Line, the Country about the Riuer Orenoaque and Trinidade in 9. or ten degrees is found as temperate as Gualata vnder 23. degrees of more northerlie latitude in Africa. So likewise Sainct Augustine in Florida vnder 31. degrees is answerable to Valadulid in 42. degrees in Spaine, also the plantations vnder 37. degrees in Virginia are correspondent in the Winter to the temperature of Deuenshire or Cornewell vnder 50. degrees heare in England, and although their Summer bee some what hotter in regard of the nearenes of the Sunne, being then in Cancer within 15. degrees of their Zenith, the Radius therof then striking neare at a right Angle, causing a strange reflection, yet would it be much hotter if the Sun in his passage ouer the great Oceane 3000. miles broad vnder that Paralel, betwixt Europe & America, by the exhalation of the waterish vapours & much moisture thereout, into the middle region of the Aire, did not coole the same, which beinge made more grosse & thick with misty Clouds, his Beames cannot pearce through with their propre vigor and force, to heate the Earth; To this cooling of the Sunnes heate helpeth also all those great fresh ponds and lakes so abounding in America. Fresh waters being more naturally cold than salt, and both colder than the Earth, of like qualitie also are the marish and Boggie groundes, the Lands not manured and therefore more naturally cold, the Country slenderly peopled, voide of Townes and Cities, whereof Europe is full; the smoake whereof and heate of fires much qualifieth the coldnesse of the Aire. Lastly the chiefest reason of the coldnesse in New-found-land in the Winter season is the Yce which beeing congealed into great firme Lands, euen from the North Pole, all alongst the Coast of Gronland, Grenland, The North-west passage Terra de laberador & so towardes the Grand bay, all that tract hauing many Inlets and broken Lands apt as vnnaturall wombes to breede and bring foorth such Monsters, which being nursed in their ruder armes, till the Winter season past, are turnde foorth of doores in the Spring to shift for themselues, and being weary of their imprisonments in those angrie Climes with one accord as if they had agreed with winde and streame take Ferrie into New-found-land, which immuring vs in the months of Febru. & March, both which are subject to northeast winds & blowing from this Yce causeth it very cold. The currant stil setting it southward as a Iaylor to bring it before the Iudge, neuer leaueth it till with the helpe of the outset of Sainct Lawrence Gulfe it be presented nearer the Sun to be broild by his scorching Beames and consumed. I cannot deny but in some Winters betwixt Christmas and March, Yce is bred in the Harbors and bayes of New-foundland, by reason of the calmenesse of the winds there incident, And the want of streames not causing motion in the Waters, and when it is so frozen, it is none otherwise then the Texsell or Inner Seas in Holand of 15. or 18. Inches thicknesse, and breakes and consumes in the Spring; all fresh Lakes frozen opens [sic] in the end of March or the beginning of Aprill, which brings with it many showers to wash away Snow, and bare the ground; and the midle of the Month many Ships arriue of the English, some French, and in the midest of May some Portingalls. All which as so many Reapers come to the Haruest, gathering in aboundance the wonderfull blessings of the Lord. I might heare further discourse of our discoueries, conference with the Saluages by Master Iohn Gye, their maner of life: Likewise of the managinge our businesse in our plantations with the descriptions of their situations in 2. places 16. miles distant from other, on the northside the bay of conception, of the manner charge and benefite of our fishings with the seuerall strange formes, and natures of Fishes, projects for making Yron, Salt, Pitch, Tarre, Tirpintine, Frank-Incense, Furres, Hope of trade with Saluages and such like, with many accidents and occurences in the time of /[13]/ my gouerment there, but these may suffice as Verbum sapienti; being of sufficient trueth to remoue errours of conceiuing the Countrie more pleasant by reason of his naturall sight in the Spheare, then it is indeede, also to convince and take away malicious and scandelous speeches of maligne persons, who out of enuy to GOD and good Actions (instructed by their father the Deuill) haue sought to despoile it of the dewe, and blamish the good name thereof.
And lastlie to induce thee, gentle Reader, to the true consideration thereof as a thing of great consequence to our Nation not only at present, but like to bee much more beneficiall when the plantation there shall increase which God grant to his owne glorie and the good of our Common-Wealth.

FINIS.


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Note: This text is based upon a facsimile of the original "Briefe Discourse of New-Found-Land," published in a collection of documents relating to the founding of Nova Scotia, edited by David Laing and printed in 1867, available in the collection of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, Queen Elizabeth II Library, Memorial University of Newfoundland. No effort has been undertaken to emend or correct the source. Please contact hrollman@morgan.ucs.mun.ca, Dr. Hans Rollmann for more information.