Newfoundland, 1815-1840 : a study of a merchantocracy

Smith, Marjorie (1968) Newfoundland, 1815-1840 : a study of a merchantocracy. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The period of the Napoleonic Wars marked the virtual extinction of the transient fishery between England and Newfoundland. The British government finally agreed to grant Newfoundland the basic institutions of other colonies. During this period, there was a power struggle between the various groups to control the institutions just being firmly established. -- The merchant class, still transient in nature, and not interested in the colony's welfare, was divided among itself. The West Country merchants, centred in the out-ports, tried to prevent the rising dominance of the newer Scottish houses centred in St. John's. The grant of a local legislature insured the victory of the St. John's merchants. -- The Irish Catholic church, inspired by the success of emancipation in Ireland, demanded its fair share of political and religious power. In this struggle, economics reinforced religious differences, as the majority of the Catholics were fishermen while the merchants were mainly Anglican. The wealthy Catholic merchants were forced to choose between the demands of class and of religion. The Anglican church strongly supported the views and outlook of the merchant class, and so religious and political strife reinforced one another. The result was a political stalemate in the legislature and religious riots in the country until the Catholics were accommodated within the political system. -- The system of justice was not able to become independent of the merchant class as there was no body of educated men in the colony independent of merchant control. The primary credit relation in the fishery, the right of the servant to follow the fish and oil, and the law of current supply, were given a fixed legal definition by Francis Forbes and economic fluidity was sacrificed for security. -- The attempt of the Liberal members of the assembly to establish a public system of education failed as the merchants supported the churches' desire to provide paternalistic, socially sound education, reinforced by religious authority. There was no attempt by the people to develop their own common schools as they did in the other colonies so denominational education was established. -- The merchant class made various attempts to solve the basic economic problem in Newfoundland - the over-dependence of the people on an industry subject to great fluctuation of markets and prices. However, they were unwilling to consider any solution which challenged their own dominance, so the people were placated by relief payments. -- By the 1840's, the merchants controlled every institution in Newfoundland society. "Merchantocracy" rather than "democracy" prevailed.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/7299
Item ID: 7299
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves i-iii.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 1968
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Newfoundland and Labrador--Politics and Government; Newfoundland and Labrador--Social conditions; Newfoundland and Labrador--Economic conditions

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