The confederation of Newfoundland with Canada, 1946-1949

FitzGerald, John Edward (1992) The confederation of Newfoundland with Canada, 1946-1949. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

Following political scandal and facing economic collapse, in 1933 Newfoundland abdicated self-government in favour of an appointed Commission of Government. World War II brought an American presence and wartime activities to Newfoundland. This, and the colony's resources spurred Canadian interest in the island. By war's end, the British had determined that Newfoundland would elect a National Convention, to recommend forms of government for inclusion in a constitutional referendum. By this time, local interest had developed in some quarters in confederation with Canada. J.R. Smallwood was elected to the Convention and became its leading advocate of confederation, but the Convention was dominated by advocates of a return to self-rule. In December 1946, a Responsible Government League (RGL) was formed by leading citizens. With ties with the Roman Catholic Church, the RGL proposed that Newfoundland return to responsible government before considering union with Canada. But while Smallwood and a Convention delegation were in Ottawa in the summer of 1947 getting proposed terms of union, the RGL failed to campaign. In January 1948 the Convention closed after defeating Smallwood's motion to include confederation with Canada on the ballot. The public was immediately asked to send telegrams demanding that confederation be included on the ballot, and the response was overwhelming. -- But before the confederates delivered their telegrams to the governor, the British had decided to put confederation on the ballot. RGL thunder was stolen when a party formed advocating economic union with the United States (EUP). Both groups fought confederate promises of the Canadian social welfare state. Smallwood campaigned with an intimate knowledge of the proposed Canadian terms of union, and received Canadian money and information, but the EUP's promises of a higher standard of living, and its slick campaign threatened to win. But because Commission of Government was included with confederation and responsible government on the ballot paper, the first referendum was indecisive. Commission was dropped, and a run-off vote was held. -- In the second referendum campaign the confederates attempted to capture the Commission vote by working in concert with the governor, Commissioners, and the Loyal Orange Association in a sectarian appeal to outport Protestant voters. Protestants were numerically dominant but they had hitherto lacked political cohesion, a situation the confederates had to overcome. While many factors entered into the decision of 22 July 1948, the second campaign was predominantly sectarian, personal, and not without electoral irregularities. Confederation narrowly passed responsible government, and the Government of Canada quickly accepted the decision. Despite RGL protests, final terms of union were negotiated between Canada and a confederate-dominated appointed Newfoundland delegation. Newfoundland joined the Canadian confederation on 31 March 1949, and the political dynasty of J.R. Smallwood was launched.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5556
Item ID: 5556
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [304]-313.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 1992
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Newfoundland. National Convention, 1946-1948; Newfoundland and Labrador--History--1934-1949; Newfoundland and Labrador--History--Union with Canada, 1949; Newfoundland and Labrador--Politics and government--1934-1949

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