By John P. Greene
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Additional info for Between Damnation and Starvation: Priests and Merchants in Newfoundland Politics, 1745-1855
Fishermen and their families were largely subservient to a group of well-to-do merchants who dominated the trade of the colony. They were based mainly in St John's, Harbour Grace, and Carbonear. If catches and markets were good, merchants covered their advances and made handsome profits; the people merely survived on a subsistence basis. If, however, international markets foundered or natural forces caused a fishery failure, merchants inflated costs and drove down fish prices in order to stave off bankruptcy.
The official church in Newfoundland suffered from problems similar to those it faced in the other British North American colonies. One, already discussed, was a shortage of money. "73 Newfoundland suffered more severely from lack of clergy than did the Maritimes. Communications were carried on by sea but Newfoundland's east coast remained ice-bound for as much as several months of each year. The Maritimes received a resident bishop with Inglis in 1787 and Quebec followed suit with Jacob Mountain's applointment in 1793; yet the denial, until 1839, of such a benefit to Newfoundland imposed a burden that could be relieved only by other churches.
That service was destined to expand dramatically during the later stages of the wars with revolutionary France and paralleled great transformations in both the fishery and settlement. Meanwhile, the Roman Catholics had also arrived on the scene. McGeary witnessed an intense competition for souls in Newfoundland - a competition conducted by the Irish Franciscan priest James Louis O'Donel,43 who had arrived in 1784 to establish the Roman Catholic 17 Religious Competition, 1745-1825 Church. 44 O'Donel set up his headquarters in the capital and was soon busy building a church and recruiting priests.
Between Damnation and Starvation: Priests and Merchants in Newfoundland Politics, 1745-1855 by John P. Greene