Monday, August 5, 2013

The First English Toe Hold in North America

Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed St. Johns in a ceremony turning a spade of sod according to English Common Law.


Ok, it’s quiz time, campers!  For 100 points and a gold star on your forehead, what was the first English colony in North America?  Bzzzzz.  If you said, I bet almost all of you did, Virginia (Jamestown) or Plymouth Plantation, you would be dead wrong.  By decades.
On August 5, 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert established that first English colony at what is now St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada.
John Cabot became the first European to sail into the deep a commodious harbor way back on June 24, 1497, the feast day of Saint John the Baptist and bestowed the Saint’s name on the place, although his exact landfall is unknown.  Cabot made his charts and reported back to his English employers including the information that the harbor had easy access to the seemingly endless cod fisheries off shore.
By the early 16th Century Portuguese from the Azores, Basques from Spain, and the French were annually visiting the fisheries and sometimes making temporary camp ashore and trading with the natives.  On August 3 1527 English sailor John Rut on a mission from King Henry VIII to find the Northwest Passage Cabot had been seeking thirty years earlier sailed into the harbor where he found eleven Norman, one Brittany, and two Portuguese fishing vessels moored.  He described the event in a letter to the King, the first ever written from North America.
By the 1640’s St. Johns, by now a well-established seasonal fishing camp, appeared in various atlases Portuguese and French.  Around that time Water Street running along harbor shore was in use, making it the oldest street or road in North America.
Reports on the rich fisheries and fine harbor began to attract English fishermen from the west country as well.  Within the next thirty years or so they dominated the annual summer runs.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert, a soldier/explorer/adventurer like his half-brother Sir Walter Raleigh, managed to set sail for the New World under a nearly expired six-year royal patent for exploration in 1683 with a small six or seven ship fleet crewed by the dregs of English ports.  One ship sailed under the command of Raleigh, but he was forced to turn back when his ship was damaged in a storm.  
After trials and tribulations Gilbert and his little fleet arrived off St. Johns but found themselves blocked from landing by the united opposition of multinational sailing fleet which was commanded by an appointed English Admiral.  One of Gilbert’s ship masters had committed piracy against the Portuguese some years earlier and was recognized.
Eventually Gilbert satisfied the fishermen and was allowed to land on August 5.  They were astonished when Gilbert, waving his patent papers, claimed St. Johns and a vast surrounding area for the English Crown.  The claim was solemnized in a brief ceremony ashore.   After a few days Gilbert and his fleet sailed away, supposedly back to England.
But Gilbert decided to do a little freelance exploring first and managed to ground his largest vessel loosing most of his food, water, and supplies.  On board his personal favorite, a leaking tub called the Squirrel instead of the far more sea worthy Golden Hind, the ship that had circumnavigated the globe under Sir Francis Drake a few years earlier, foundered and was lost on September 9.
But his claim made it safely back into the hands of Queen Elizabeth, officially making it the first colony in North America.  Plans for permanent settlement, however, were put aside for some years.  But the seasonal fishing village flourished and the Queen and her successors made a pretty penny taxing the fleet.
Sometime before 1620 a permanent settlement was finally established, about the same time as Jamestown in 1619 and Plymouth a year later.  Shortly after it became the first incorporated English city on the continent.
St. John’s because of its magnificent harbor and command of the rich Grand Bank fisheries became a strategic point in the control of the entire continent. The Dutch under Admiral Michiel de Ruyter temporarily seized the port in June 1665.  After that the English began to erect fortifications, which were re-enforced after each new threat.
French Admiral Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville captured and destroyed the town in 1696 and leveled the original earth work fortification.  The English returned the next year to find the town leveled and all but deserted after which stronger stone and masonry fortifications were built. The French attacked St. John’s again in 1705 and captured it in 1708 in the Battle of St. John’s. Both times the civilian town was leveled by fire.
The French captured the town for the last time in 1762 during the Seven Years War known as the French and Indian War in the lower English colonies.  The English took it back after the Battle of Signal Hill, the final major action of the war.
The port city was a major English naval base and staging area for operations in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812.
Because it is the eastern most port in North America, St. Johns figured prominently in several communications and transportation firsts.  Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic radio signal there from his wireless station in Poldhu, Cornwall in December 1901.  Alcock and Brown made the first transatlantic flight in a modified Vickers Vimy IV bomber, in June 1919 leaving from Lester’s Field in St. John's and ending in a bog near Clifden, Connemara, Ireland.
St. John’s is the capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador which after a long history as an independent colony became the 10th Province of Canada in 1949.
In the 1990’s the cod fisheries of the Grand Banks, the economic engine of the city for hundreds of years, collapsed plunging the city and province into a depression and causing a hemorrhage of population to the rest of Canada.
In recent years the development of the Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose oil fields has spurred population growth and commercial development.

2 comments:

  1. WHO IS A HERETIC?

    Heresy is an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and formation of sects. Christian heresy is opinion contrary to the Scriptures. Christian heresy is opinion in opposition to the doctrines of God.

    One mans heretic is another mans truth teller.

    There are men who believe there are many ways to heaven. Was Jesus being a heretic when He said (John 14:6 ..."I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.)

    There are believers in Christs as well as others who believe that that it took God millions or billions of years to create the heavens and the earth. Was Moses being a heretic when he wrote in Genesis of a six day, twenty four hour day creation? (Genesis 1:1-31......31 God saw all that He made, and behold, it was very good. And that was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.)

    Many believers in Christ believe and teach that water baptism is not essential to have sins forgiven. Was the apostle Peter being heretical when he said (Acts 2:38 ....and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..)

    Some believe that Jesus is God the Father. Was the apostle Paul guilty of heresy when he said (1 Corinthians 15:20-28.....24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He has abolished all rule authority and power......28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.)

    Some men believe that you do not have to believe in Jesus to be saved. Other men assert that water baptism is not a requirement for salvation. Was Jesus demonstrating an act of heresy when He said (Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved...)

    There are those who proclaim that Christians cannot fall from grace. Was the apostle Paul deemed a heretic when he said (Galatians 5:4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.)

    There are a few who believe that God only offers salvation, by His grace, to a select chosen few. Was the apostle Paul showing his heretical side when he said (Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared bring salvation to all men) Gods grace is available to all who accept His terms for pardon.

    Are Jesus, Moses, the apostles, and the writers of the Bible, all heretics?

    Is it heretical to be opposed to denominational doctrines that are contrary to the facts found in the Bible?

    Are Jesus and the apostles heretics because they disagree with denominational doctrines?

    WHO IS A HERETIC?



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    Replies
    1. Off topic, but I am allowing it. I refer you to the little verse by the Universalist Poet Edwin Markham from which the blog name comes.

      Outwitted
      He drew a circle that shut me out--
      Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout,
      But Love and I had he wit to win:
      We drew a circle that took him in!

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