Anti-Confederation Song (II)
DESCRIPTION: After 1932 "a foreign gang came over here to rule and gather taxes." Joe Smallwood promotes confederation with Canada. The singer prefers we "man our vessel... with native crew to run her."
AUTHOR: Hughie O'Quinn (according to Bennett-Downey)
EARLIEST DATE: 1980 (Bennett-Downey)
KEYWORDS: Canada patriotic political
1933 - Newfoundland, bankrupt, gives up self-government and accepts a crown-colony style constitution
1949 - Newfoundland unites with Canada after Newfoundlanders vote for confederation; Joseph R. Smallwood is the first provincial premier.
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Bennett-Downey 3, pp. 67-70, "Anti-Confederation Song" (1 text)
Jerome Downey, "The Anti-Confederation Song" (on NFJDowney01)
Hector MacIsaac and Jerome Downey, "Anti-Confederation Song" (on NFHMacIsaac01)
Hector MacIsaac, "Anti-Confederation Song" (on NFHMacIsaac02)
cf. "The Girl I Left Behind Me (II - lyric)" (tune) and references there
cf. "Anti-Confederation Song (I)" (subject of Canadian Confederation, as it was in 1869)
cf. "The 'Antis' of Plate Cove" (subject) and notes there
NOTES [747 words]: The Great Depression had been hard on Newfoundland, which in effect sold itself back to Britain in return for a bailout of the bankrupt government (Cadigan, pp. 206-208; Neary/O'Flaherty,p. 148). The island suffered badly in the Depression even so; most winters saw 25%-30% of the population on relief (Keir, p. 334). The island staunchly supported the Allied war effort in the Second World War, and suffered accordingly -- and Britain wasn't as interested in running the island after the war anyway; in late 1945, Prime Minister Clement Attee announced that delegates would be elected to a National Convention to decide the territory's fate (Neary/O'Flaherty, p. 161). Confederation (union with Canada) was one option, but another was to return to the pre-1934 form of government (which had had a legislature, although it had been marked by extreme partisanship).
"The spokesman who emerged to lead the Confederate forces was J. R. Smallwood, the delegate for Bonavista Centre, who, thanks to his earlier career on a show he had invented, 'The Barrelman,' had the best-known radio voice in Newfoundland....
"Smallwood and his Confederate supporters were able to manouevre the convention into sending a delegation to Ottawa to see whether suitable terms of union with Canada could be devised." (Neary/O'Flaherty, p. 162). They got an offer -- on its face, a pretty good one: Canada (which supposedly didn't want Newfoundland independent and potentially close to the United States; Cadigan, p. 233) would take on 90% of Newfoundland's debt, let it keep its cash on hand, subsidize it, and allow it to keep its religiously-segregated schools (Cadigan, p. 237). The delegation went home to Newfoundland, where the Convention voted it down 29-16. The only recommendations the Convention (and the St. John's population of the "Responsible Government League") wanted to make to Britain was for a return to 1934 or continued royal government.
The British government -- exhausted and broke after World War II -- didn't like these options, and Smallwood got together a bunch of petitioners to call for Confederation, and Britain decided that the referendum should have three choices:
1. "Commission of Government" for five years (i.e. five years of continued non-representative government while the people straightened things out)
3. Return to 1934
Smallwood proceeded to turn the referendum into contest between the "common man" and the elite businessmen of Water Street in St. John's (Cadigan, p. 239). It just barely worked.
In the first round of voting, on June 3, 1948, Confederation actually lost -- 69,400 voted for a return to 1934, 64.066 for Confederation, and 22,311 for Commission. But there was a runoff on July 22, with continued Commission dropped from the choices, and Confederation won 78,323 to 71,334 (Neary/O'Flaherty, p. 163). The returns were interestingly divided: The vote for 1934 was concentrated in St. John's and the Avalon Peninsula; the rest of the island, much less populated (and poorer) went for Confederation (Neary/O'Flaherty, p. 164; McNaught, pp. 275-276). Newfoundland thus became "The Tenth Province."
Smallwood's "reward was almost 23 years of political dominance of the new island-province" (Brown, p. 473). Though it wasn't all smooth governing; Smallwood, originally inclined to socialism, gradually drifted away from his populist roots toward almost complete support of the often-inefficient businesses he had helped encourage (Cadigan, pp. 239-244), so supporters of all stripes gradually drifted away. But, by the time Smallwood was gone, Confederation was firmly established. Unlike Quebec, Newfoundland did not end up with a "Newfoundander" party; the local political factions aligned themselves, sometimes very imperfectly, with Canada's major parties, making Smallwood a "Liberal" (Cadigan, p. 240).
Smallwood "did his best in that length era 'to bring Newfoundlanders kicking and screaming into the twentieth century.'" Yet his policies also resulted in what Ralph Matthews called "development of underdevelopment," by which Matthews seems to have meant keeping Newfoundland as an economic colony of the rest of Canada (Busch, p. 245).
Eventually Smallwood's program became so extreme that he resettled whole towns and offered away much of Labrador on lease (Cadigan, pp. 246-247). The audacity of it all is amazing. The intelligence... eh.... He and his party were finally voted out of office in 1972 (Cadigan, p. 260). - RBW
Last updated in version 4.3
- Brown: Craig Brown, editor, The Illustrated History of Canada, Key Porter, 1987-2000
- Busch: Briton Cooper Busch, The War Against the Seals: A History of the North American Seal Fishery, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1985
- Cadigan: Sean T. Cadigan, Newfoundland and Labrador: A History, University of Toronto Press, 2009
- Keir: David Keir, The Bowring Story, The Bodley Head, 1962
- McNaught: Kenneth McNaught, The Pelican History of Canada, enlarged edition, Pelican, 1982
- Neary/O'Flaherty: Peter Neary and Patrick O'Flaherty, Part of the Main: An Illustrated History of Newfoundland and Labrador, Breakwater Books, 1983
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