Anti-Confederation Song (I)
DESCRIPTION: Newfoundland defiantly rejects union with the "Canadian Wolf." The promises made by the confederation are listed and rejected. "Would you barter the rights that your fathers have won... For a few thousand dollars of Canadian gold."
AUTHOR: Charles Fox Bennett (1793-1883) ? (see NOTES)
EARLIEST DATE: 1869 (Bennett campaign, according to Hiscock)
KEYWORDS: Canada patriotic political
1867 - Canadian Act of Confederation
1869 - Newfoundland electors refuse to join the Canadian Confederation
1949 - Newfoundland unites with Canada
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Fowke/Johnston, pp. 28-29, "Anti-Confederation Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/MacMillan 7, "An Anti-Confederation Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle2, p. 69, "Anti-Confederation Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle4, p. 64, "Anti-Confederation Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle5, p. 55, "Anti-Confederation Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Blondahl, p. 42, "The Anti-Confederation Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/Mills/Blume, pp. 105-107, "An Anti-Confederation Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
ST FJ028 (Partial)
Omar Blondahl, "An 1861 Anti Confederation Song" (on NFOBlondahl04)
cf. "The 'Antis' of Plate Cove" (subject) and notes there
cf. "Anti-Confederation Song (II)" (subject of Canadian Confederation, as it was in 1949)
NOTES [440 words]: According to Philip Hiscock's notes to this song in Eric West, Sing Around This One: Songs of Newfoundland & Labrador Vol. 2, Vinland Music, 1997, p. 54, this is suspected of having been written by Charles Fox Bennett, and Bennett "certainly" used it in 1869 during the unsuccessful campaign for confederation with Canada. Hiscock adds that the slogan "Come near at your peril, Canadian wolf" "has been emblematic for Newfoundland nationalists for over a century." Indeed, Chadwick, p. 19, quotes this song as the epigraph to his chapter on Confederation, and Hallowell, p. 140, also cites the "Canadian wolf" verse in his discussion of how Nova Scotia and Newfoundland responded to the 1927 August gale.
DictNewfLabrador, pp. 19-20, gives a fairly long biography of Bennett, who was born in Shaftesbury, England, in 1793 and came to Newfoundland as a boy. By 1827, he was establishing businesses which eventually included a mill, foundry, brewery, shipyard, and bank; he was one of the most important businessmen in the island. Appointed to various legislative bodies, he opposed Responsible Government (home rule) in 1855, and apparently had his mill set on fire as a result. But when, in the 1860s, the proposal came up for Newfoundland to join Canada, he came back to oppose the idea, founding an anti-Confederation party in 1869. When the "Antis" won 21 of 30 seats in the House of Assembly, he became Prime Minister in 1870 despite being 76 years old. His administration, despite his conservative notions, was regarded as "able and progressive," but fell after an election in 1873, and Bennett gave up politics in the mid-1870s.
He seems to have been rather a rabble-rouser. Chadwick, p. 25, reports, "Playing on Irish national sentiment in the outports and on the memories of the earlier French invasions, which in turn awakened resentment against Quebec, Bennett was able to paint a horrifying picture of the fate that would befall Newfoundland were she ever to link her destinies of the mainland. Thousands of illiterate voters were warned that their children would be used as gun wads for Canadian cannon; that they themselves would be conscripted and that 'their bones would bleach on the desert sands [sic.] of Canada'. The old bogey of taxation was of course well to the fore."
The irony is that Newfoundland was very poor, and was actually promised subsidies in the Confederation deal. Big ones (Chadwick, p. 24) -- it appears to me that it was over a dollar for every man, woman, and child in Newfoundland. Which may not sound like much, but this was at a time when many entire families lived on less than $20 per year. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.4
- Chadwick: St John Chadwick, Newfoundland: Island Into Province, Cambridge University Press, 1967
- DictNewfLabrador: (Robert H. Cuff, managing editor), Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador Biography, Harry Cuff Publications, 1990
- Hallowell: Gerald Hallowell, The August Gales: The Tragic Loss of Fishing Schooners in the North Atlantic, 1926 and 1927, Nimbus Publishing, 2013
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