cheap authentic soccer jerseys online American journalist finds much to dislike here 140 years ago
Benjamin as he sailed from Boston, along the south coast of Newfoundland, past Trepassey Bay, up the Southern Shore and into St. John’s in a small vessel where the food, the proximity to other travellers, the dinner table conversation and some of the niceties of navigation were not to his liking. Nevertheless, all survived the trip (physically and psychologically) and Benjamin was deposited here in St. In addition to Newfoundland, the selected Atlantic Islands included the Azores, the Bahamas, the Channel Islands, Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton Island and a few others.
Benjamin, once on (relatively) dry land here, focuses first of all on our dogs:
“The streets abound with dogs, almost as if it were a Turkish city, generally of mongrel breeds and burdened by a billet of wood hung to the neck, which renders them harmless. So numerous are dogs in the inhabited regions, and so mischievous to the flocks that the laws of the island permit anyone to shoot them at sight.”
Sounds rather like the good, old American West at this very period, only there, the target was people.
He does make an interesting point about the Newfoundland dog, however: “But while other curs are so common, individuals of the genuine Newfoundlandic stock are scarce and fetch from eight to one hundred dollars. The breed is consequently guarded with great care, but seems, nevertheless to be dying out.”
I checked and learned that $80 in 1870 is the equivalent of $1,500 today. I checked prices for Newfoundlands online. The price doesn’t seem to have changed in 150 years.
Turning to another sector, Benjamin described the evolution in our seal hunt from brigantines with wedge shaped hulls which allow them to rise with the squeezing of ice and avoid being crushed to “a few screw steamers carrying 150 to 200 men their crews share only a third of the receipts, but the increased rapidity of locomotion enables them to gain equal profits with the other crews.”
Curiously, the book, designed primarily for the traveller seeking health and entertainment occupies itself at length with the seal hunt and the codfishery. I did note last week that Benjamin recommends a visit to the seal hunt as a tourist experience (believe it or not) where one will truly rough it but overall he does not live up to his own mandate, at least in the Newfoundland pages. Unless, that is, tourists would enjoy travelling to see things they did not like.
“Twelve men, most of whom reside in England and carry on the business through agents in Newfoundland, furnish the capital on which the fisheries are conducted, consequently a large portion of the profit does not remain in the country, but is taken abroad to be distributed elsewhere.”
That is part of Benjamin’s large picture. More up close was his view of our most prominent landmark,
the twin towered Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
“The Roman Catholics have, in former time, been in excess of the Protestants of the island, and, as elsewhere, have characteristically secured the most commanding site in St. John’s for their cathedral,” Benjamin noted.
He pointed out that it is “the first object that meets the eye on entering the port and its size and position leading a stranger to infer that opulence and numbers are monopolized by the Romanists. But the exterior is far more showy than the interior, which is cold and barn like, finished off with crumbling stucco and poorly ornamented with cheap copies after the Masters.” As if to encourage the smoldering divisiveness, he adds: “The last census, however, showed that the Protestant element is gaining, and is now in a respectable majority.”
You could call the cathedral (Basilica) “new” at the time Benjamin visited. While I have not discovered when he actually visited here, possibly he knew of the accident inside the church in 1870 when two women were killed by a large falling plank erected at a high elevation for some work project. (Paul O’Neill, “The Oldest City,” page 562.) In any case, consecrated only in 1855, the church could then still be considered new.
As to the Anglican Bishop of Newfoundland, our tourism journalist notes that he visits his See (Benjamin plays here by noting the bishop’s See is more “Sea” as he visits it by boat around the coast) and “the winters he devotes to the spiritual necessities of the Bermudas, who evidently receive more than their share of spiritual nourishment.”
The origins of political correctness, to come perhaps just shy of a century are evident in several of Benjamin’s lines and he is not untypical of his day: “Immediately on striking inland one comes to the primeval forests of spruce and pine, which are about as destitute of traces of the supreme Caucasian race as if Columbus had never been born.” And yet, surely Caucasian Newfoundlanders were beyond redemption? Look at this next paragraph:
Trying his best to cover all sectors of our society for the benefit of would be visitors, Benjamin in another part comments, “There is some attempt at popular education on the part of the government, but, judging from the intelligence of the popular mind, wisdom will not die with the Newfoundlanders.”
As to whether we were up on current events in great grandfather’s day, we may wish to take note of Benjamin’s “careful, personal observation.”
“The United States press is represented in the bookstores by the most vulgar of the New York weeklies, which may account for the not unreasonable opinion expressed to me by a usually well informed clergyman, that he supposed the United States was governed entirely by mob law,’ ” he wrote.
Would it be equally ignorant of me to say that I can almost see that the clergyman was, indeed, well informed?
We were also to be blamed for not tapping into the information flow with the trans Atlantic cable crawling to land on our shores.
“The papers of St. John’s are of a contemptible character; the telegraphic news they contain is much garbled, and what seems extraordinary considering the near vicinity of Heart’s Content the terminus of the cable is obtained by way of Boston and Halifax several days after date!
” Benjamin stated.