Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Guy, John

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GUY, JOHN (d. 1628?), governor of Newfoundland, a citizen and merchant venturer of Bristol, was admitted to the corporation of the city in 1603, and was sheriff in 1605-6. In 1608 he and others belonging to the society of merchant venturers took into consideration a letter received by the mayor from Chief-justice Popham touching the colonisation of Newfoundland. John Cabot's discovery, and other subsequent expeditions from Bristol, had given the merchants of the city a special interest in Newfoundland, of which possession was formally taken for Queen Elizabeth by Sir Humfrey Gilbert in 1583. They did not, however, follow up the fishery there with vigour, and no attempt had been made at colonisation. The merchants agreed not to embark on the scheme unless the king would co-operate with them. The king consented, and a list of contributions was made out, Guy and others subscribing twenty marks a year for five years. Guy in 1609 put forth a treatise, of which Purchas possessed a copy, 'to animate the English to plant [or colonise] in Newfoundland.' His idea was warmly taken up by his fellow-citizens and by some of the London merchants. On 27 April 1610 James I granted a charter to Henry, earl of Northampton, keeper of the privy seal, and others, among whom were John Guy and his brother Philip, incorporating them as the 'Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the Cities of London and Bristol,' for the purpose of colonising Newfoundland, and comprehending as their sphere of action' the southern and eastern parts of the new found land between 46° and 52° N. L.' Guy, who is described as a 'man very industrious and of great experience' (Stow), took out, probably in the following July, a colony of thirty-nine persons of both sexes, the men being 'all of civil life,' traders and workmen. He was accompanied by his family and his brother, and took with him grain for seed, and 'hens, ducks, pigeons, conies, goats, kine, and other live creatures,' for he wished to prove that the country would grow corn, and was good for farm stock. On 16 May 1611, when he had been there ten months, he wrote home an account of the climate and the fortunes of his colony, saying that in the summer he proposed to make a voyage 'between Cape Race, Placentia, and Bona Vista,' and that on his return home he would leave William Colston and his brother Philip to manage the colony (Purchas). He seems to have returned before the winter, for he was treasurer of the merchant venturers 1611-12. He then went back to Newfoundland, and in a letter written in October 1612 speaks of a voyage which he had made to Trinity Bay. He was anxious to establish trade with the natives. Some five years later a visitor to Newfoundland wrote that the Bristol citizens had 'planted a large circuit of the country, and builded there many fine houses, and done many other good services' (ib.) Guy returned to Bristol, and was elected mayor 1618-19, was member of the merchant venturers' court of assistants in 1620 and 1621, and master in 1622. He was a member for the city in the parliament of 1620, and in a debate on the scarcity of money on 27 Feb. spoke of the abundance of English coin in foreign parts, and recommended that the exportation of money should be forbidden (Parliamentary History); he also sat for Bristol in the parliament of 1621, and was again returned on 20 Oct. 1624. While member he received and wrote several letters about the interests of the merchant venturers company, which are preserved by the society. One sent to him and his colleague Whitson in October 1621 is on the 'business of Sir Ferdinando Gorges,' and relates to the restraint of trade with New England consequent on the articles and orders of the president and council for New England, which the merchants 'in noe sorte did like;' in the following February Guy writes touching his 'conference with the lord treasurer and others concerning the new imposition of wines and composition of grocery' (MS. Records of Merchant Venturers). He was again a member of the court of assistants from 1624 to 1628, when he probably died, as his name disappears from the books of the society. It has been positively asserted that he died in that year, and was buried in St. Stephen's Church, Bristol (note communicated by Mr. W. George of Bristol). As regards his burial this seems impossible, as the register books of the church, which are in a good state of preservation, contain no such entry between 1628 and 1636. There is no monument to him in Bristol.

[MSS. of the Merchant Venturers of Bristol, at Merchants' Hall; information supplied by Mr. W. George of Bristol; Cal. State Papers, Colonial, 1574-1660, i. 20, 303; Purchas his Pilgrimes, iv. 1875-88; Stow's Annales, ed. Howes, 1631, p. 1019; Return of Members of Parliament, i. 451, 457; Parl. Hist. i. 1197; Seyer's Bristol, ii. 259; Nicholls and Taylor's Bristol, Past and Present, iii. 301.]

W. H.