A History of Canada: - Vol. 1

By Gustave Lanctot; Josephine Hambleton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
FISHING, FUR-TRADING AND THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE

The place of cod in the diet of the time. Portuguese, French, English and Spaniards on the Grand Banks. Fishing methods. Humphrey Gilbert takes possession of Newfoundland. Barter in furs: the beginnings and growth of the trade. The first ventures of La Roche. The first monopoly with Noël and La Jaunaye. La Roche on Sable Island with beggars and vagabonds. Chauvin and fur-trading in the St. Lawrence. De Chastes sends Champlain to Canada. England's search for the North-west Passage: Frobisher, Davis, Hudson. Other expeditions.

After Cartier's misadventures with gold, France dropped all enterprises in Canada. Two forms of produce alone saved the country from oblivion: cod-fish and furs. In those days, with 153 days' fasting every year, fish was a near-essential food and an article of heavy consumption. Cod was of first-rank importance in this connection because it was so easily caught and preserved. News of the phenomenal super-abundance of cod found by Cabot around Newfoundland in 1497, so plentiful that the fish could be scooped up out of the sea in baskets, spread throughout the ports of Europe. Oddly enough, the English neglected the Banks, thinking their distance from home too great, but after Corte Real's expedition, the Portuguese went there in such numbers that in 1506 the King set a tax on Newfoundland cod-fish. In their turn, the Breton fishermen ventured across the Atlantic towards those parts of the ocean so rich in fish. From 1504 onwards they were on the Banks, soon followed by Normans from Honfleur and Dieppe; and as early as 1514 the monks at Beauport were collecting their tithes on fish taken from the Banks. The English turned the prows of their ships in that direction only several years later and in small

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