Cod and Credit

Kingwell By Kingwell, 3rd Aug 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/2zxna5n5/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Culture

A history of the Cod Fishery in Newfoundland and the Credit System that developed between Fish Merchant and Fisherman that continued with little change until Newfound became a province of Canada in 1949.

Early Years and Church Influence.

Newfoundland has always been intricately connected with the cod fishery. Even before the island was settled, European vessels would come to its shores to fill their boats, salt their catch, and return home. It was the “golden age of fish,” and in Britain, as in the rest of Europe, the fasts and ordinances of the church were strictly observed by the people. This meant that fish would be on the menu at least every Friday, as well as all the major fast days and more often during the church season of Lent. In England, which had laid its claim to the island in 1583, the king issued an order that everyone was to eat fish on Wednesday and Friday of each week. During these early years, settlement on the island was forbidden, though they could live there during the summer, everyone must return home to in the Autumn. In later years as laws relaxed and settlements began to spring up, the fish merchants of England also set up shop in the colony.

Credit System

One cannot think about the fishery of Newfoundland without thinking also of what came to be known as the credit system, whereby the merchant issued supplies to the fishermen in the Spring and was repaid at the end of the season in fish. It is impossible to say when the system began, but it probably arose out of the fact that the merchant who exported the fish also sold provisions and fishing supplies. At the beginning of the season a man with no money to buy food and with nothing to fish with would make a bargain with the merchant; If the latter would supply him with all he required, he would repay the debt out of the fish he caught. The merchant tried to ensure himself against loss by charging higher prices when giving credit than he would have charged for cash, so that any profit he made from one man would cover loss arising from the failure of another man.

Evils of The Credit System.

The system, although successful at first, later led to great evils. In a poor season the merchant often advanced supplies not only in the Spring, but also throughout the winter. On the other hand, men who were not hard working piled up debts which they could hardly hope to repay and became in time almost the slaves of the merchants. Some of the most reckless and improvident of the fishermen didn’t seem to care about this state of affairs. As long as they could obtain a living they were satisfied; but it fell with particular harshness on the hard working man who sometimes fell into debt as a result of several poor fishing seasons. Even Industrious and successful men had reason to complain because they knew that the profit which the merchant was making on them was higher than it would have been if others were as hard-working as themselves. This system continued with little change until 1949, the year that Newfoundland voted to become a province of Canada.

Tags

Britain, Britains Oldest Colony, Canada, Church Fasts, Cod And Credit, Codfish, Fish Merchants, Fishermen, Kingwell, Newfoundland

Meet the author

author avatar Kingwell
I am 75 years old and retired.I like writing short stories, poetry as well other articles of interest.

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Comments

author avatar Phyl Campbell
4th Aug 2014 (#)

I'm coping and pasting a comment to save time. My apologies. Another great article, btw.

I am around. Took Sean to the ER for the second time this week -- kidney stones. So between being a terrible nurse for him and dozing inbetween times, I am commenting some here and there but not troubling to post. Hoping next week will be better!!

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author avatar Kingwell
4th Aug 2014 (#)

Thank you Phyl, Hope Sean is better soon. Kidney stone can be very painful.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
4th Aug 2014 (#)

Copying. Of course...

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
4th Aug 2014 (#)

As it happens all the time some, those with a conscience, pay more than necessary due to others' faults. Interesting post, thanks Kingwell - siva

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author avatar Kingwell
4th Aug 2014 (#)

Thank you Siva.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
18th Aug 2014 (#)

My grandfather ( a lobstermen and fishermen by trade) always said Credit will ruin our nation- he was so profoundly against it and would share all he could without taking food out of his families mouths to see that others did not get caught in the spiral of credit...outstanding read and very real history-thanks Kingwell

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author avatar Kingwell
18th Aug 2014 (#)

Thank you Delicia. I agree with your grandfather. In Newfoundland it was a system where the fish merchant has almost complete control over the fishermen.

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