June 5, 2012 - The Honourable Peter Penashue, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Honourable Derrick Dalley, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation for Newfoundland and Labrador, today announced the opening of a public exhibition of the Francis William Drake Indenture at The Rooms, the largest public cultural space in St. John’s. The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has secured a five-year loan agreement with the federal government to exhibit this archival document, which details the appointment of Francis William Drake as governor and commander-in-chief of Newfoundland in 1750.
“The Drake Indenture is a unique document, highlighting an important period in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history,” said Minister Penashue. “We are proud to help make this document available to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
“The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is pleased to have worked closely with the federal government to establish this loan agreement for the Francis William Drake Indenture,” said Minister Dalley. “The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador places a great deal of importance on the preservation of archival documents significant to our history, and we are pleased that the Drake Indenture will be displayed at The Rooms, offering learning and cultural enrichment opportunities to researchers and visitors.”
Appointed at the age of 26, Francis William Drake served as de facto governor in 1750 and 1751 before succeeding to the full office in 1752. Drake’s accomplishments during his governorship included the establishment of the first criminal courts in Newfoundland, which he created to combat the general lawlessness prevalent throughout the island at the time.
The Francis William Drake Indenture is the property of the Government of Canada and falls under Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada’s jurisdiction and control. The department established the terms of the loan agreement with Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation and Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat. The Francis William Drake Indenture will be on display at The Rooms starting Thursday, June 7, 2012.
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A backgrounder follows.
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Office of Minister Penashue
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Director of Communications
Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation
The Francis William Drake Indenture was noticed by David Coles of Halifax during a visit to Canada House in London in early 2007. Recognizing the significance of the item to Newfoundland and Labrador’s history, Mr. Coles contacted the province’s attorney general at that time, the Honourable Tom Rideout, as well as the then-minister of foreign affairs, the Honourable Peter MacKay, to draw attention to its existence and to suggest that the item be returned to the province for display.
Francis William Drake was a younger brother of Sir Francis Henry Drake, the last baronet in succession from Sir Francis Drake, the Elizabethan hero of the battle against the Spanish Armada. The date and place of Francis William Drake’s birth are unknown, and accounts of his life confuse some details with others concerning his younger brother, who died at approximately the same time, late in 1788 or early the next year. He served as de facto governor of Newfoundland under Commodore George Brydges Rodney, the senior naval officer at the station, in 1750 and 1751. He succeeded to the full office in 1752.
Drake is credited with the establishment of criminal courts in Newfoundland. Previously, those accused of criminal offences were sent to England for trial. He established courts very early on in his governorship and was authorized to appoint the commissioners who would preside over regular trials by jury. He was also given the power to pardon all offenders except wilful murderers, to whom he could grant reprieves if circumstances warranted. Later, he was given authority to permit executions without recourse to the Crown, except in cases involving officers and men of the navy or merchant marine.
Drake was succeeded as governor in 1753 and went on to serve during the Seven Years’ and American Revolutionary wars. In September 1780, he was promoted vice-admiral of the blue and appointed to command a squadron of the Channel fleet. Although poor health led him to terminate his active career that year, he was promoted vice-admiral of the red in September 1787.
This backgrounder draws extensively from an article in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.