"Antis" of Plate Cove, The

DESCRIPTION: A fight breaks out during an election to confederate Newfoundland with Canada. Details of the clash between "cons" and "antis" are told by the singer, who is against confederation.
AUTHOR: Mark Walker (1846-1924) (Source: Philip Hiscock of MUNFLA, Canadian Folk Music Bulletin 37.2, 2003)
EARLIEST DATE: 1940
KEYWORDS: political patriotic Canada
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
1867 - Canadian Act of Confederation
1869 - Newfoundland electors refuse to join the Canadian Confederation
1949 - Newfoundland unites with Canada
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Doyle2, pp. 44-45, "The 'Antis' of Plate Cove" (1 text, 1 tune)
Blondahl, pp. 43-44, "The Antis of Plate Cove" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #4554
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Anti-Confederation Song (I)" (subject)
cf. "Anti-Confederation Song (II)" (subject)
NOTES [558 words]: Mainland Canada achieved "Confederation," and self-government, in 1867. Many of the provinces, especially in the Maritimes, were against Confederation (it was, after all, largely the result of internal politics in "Canada" -- Ontario plus Quebec), but most joined by 1870. Newfoundland, however, rejected confederation in 1869, and did not finally join Canada until 1949. - RBW
Doyle [refers this piece to the election of] 1869. "Cons" were for confederation and "antis" where those against. He also mentions that Plate Cove is in Bonavista Bay. Confederacy was not achieved until 1949 with a very slim margin at the polls. - SH
To be fair, Newfoundland had not been represented at the first conference that began the process of Confederation (Neary/O'Flaherty, p. 90); it wasn't until the third conference in 1864 that they sent any representatives at all, and those representatives had little negotiating power (Chadwick, p. 23). There wasn't much reason for Newfoundland to want Confederation from the standpoint of trade or politics; in the 1860s, it was still mostly self-reliant, and very rural, and such trade as it did have was with the British Isles, not North America, and especially not Canada (Neary/O'Flaherty, p. 92). Plus it had only achieved self-government in 1855 (Chadwick, pp. 17-18); who would want to give it up so soon? Turning their relations with Britain over to people in Ontario and Quebec might well have proved disastrous -- though the financial subsidies the Canadians offered were so large that they could have substantially changed the Newfoundland economy for the better (Chadwick, p. 24).
It didn't help that Newfoundland politics in this period were sharply divided along sectarian and occupational lines (Neary/O'Flaherty, p. 91), as well as urban/rural lines (Noel, p. 9). When the members of the legislature were largely elected based on their opposition to some other group, it was hard to imagine a way to assemble a coalition that was FOR something. The legislature in 1866-1868 was fairly closely divided on the issue -- too closely divided to settle anything. And, after 1869, 21 of 30 Members elected were opposed to Confederation (Neary/O'Flaherty, p. 92). This meant they weren't even in position to negotiate a deal more suitable for their needs (Chadwick, p. 26). So Newfoundland stayed an independent colony for another eighty years. It wasn't until the Great Depression so destroyed the economy that the government had to (in effect) sell itself back to Britain that the issue of Confederation came back in a serious way.
The word "Antis" became a permanent part of Newfoundland English; in 1902, James Murphy published "Confederation Song of 1869":
So now Confederation
A shameful death has died,
And buried up at Riverhead
Beneath the flowing tide.
O may it never rise again
To both us, I pray,
Hurrah my boys for liberty
The Antis gained the day.
(StoryKirwinWiddowson, p. 8, who also quote "The 'Antis' of Plate Cove" in their entry on "Antis"; the Murphy piece is quoted also by Chadwick, p. 27).
Mark Walker is listed as the author of several popular Newfoundland songs, "Tickle Cove Pond," "Fanny's Harbour Bawn," "The 'Antis' of Plate Cove," and "Lovely Katie-O"; a family tradition also says that he wrote "The Star of Logy Bay." See the notes to that song for discussion of the matter. - RBW
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