Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Crooked Election? Perhaps. With Special Guest Donna Schlachter

Today we welcome special guest Donna Schlachter as she shares a historical tidbit about the setting of her book, The Physics of Love. 

With the current presidential race going on in the US, this seemed like an appropriate topic for a blog this month. In particular, I am looking at the election in 1948 whereby Newfoundland became the tenth province in Canada.

As with most elections, the losers claimed the process was rigged or somehow contrived to accomplish a result that wasn’t entirely legit. In particular, the Conservative Party felt certain that the best path for the island to take was to join the United States.

Newfoundland operated as a Dominion of the British Empire, and as such, didn’t have any local representative or responsible government until 1882, although England still had the final say.

When several provinces decided to meet in 1864 at the Charlottetown Conference, Newfoundland didn’t send any delegates, but did send two representatives later that year to the Quebec Conference.

Although Newfoundland was the first colony in the New World, it was among the last to decide its political future, a decision the island was forced into because of increased debt to the tune of about $40 million in the 1920’s. That may not sound like a lot of money now, but at the time, it was insurmountable.

However, prosperity returned during the 1940’s and World War II, because the US “rented” space on the island and poured millions of dollars into the economy. Once the war ended, though, problems soon returned. Requests for Britain to assist in retiring the national debt were declined, as Britain had enough debt of its own, and frankly, hoped Newfoundland would decide to join Canada. When the island turned to Canada for economic help, the country said it would not assist unless Newfoundland joined Confederation.
Newfoundland Flag

Enter Joseph R. Smallwood, a tough politician and future premier of the island. He wanted the island to join Canada. His opponent, Peter Cashin, believed an independent Newfoundland under responsible government was the best choice, while Chesley Crosby advocated for closer economic ties with the US, hoping this would propel the island to become a state.

As for the US, its only interest, as the Cold War neared, was to use the island as a strategic military base. In reality, because of the small population of Newfoundland, statehood wouldn’t likely have been offered, and the island probably wouldn’t have accepted being annexed as a territory. And Canada, while it didn’t see that Newfoundland’s participation in Confederation would benefit the country, it didn’t want to see the island become part of the US.

So when time came for the referendum, there were three choices on the ballot: union with Canada; restore responsible government; or continue the Commission of Government established in 1934.

The first referendum, held in June 1948, resulted in a near-tie between Confederation and responsible government. Because at least 50% was required, a second referendum was held in July 1948 in which Confederation was selected.

So was the referendum fixed? Perhaps, but not against Chesley Crosby and his pro-US supporters because union with the US was never on the ballot. However, a glance at the demographics of the voting shows that the residents of St. John’s, the capital city, and surrounding communities overwhelmingly voted for Confederation, and carried enough votes to win the day.

Which just goes to prove, as Laura says in The Physics of Love, “whatever St. John’s wants, St. John’s gets.” 

About the Author:

Donna writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is currently under contract with Barbour Books in a novella collection on the Pony Express. Donna loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and online at: www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com. Click here to subscribe to her free quarterly newsletter. Her books are available at Amazon.com in digital and print. Her next release in October is The Physics of Love: where the past, the present, and the future collide. Click here to purchase.

About Donna's Book:

The Physics of Love: where the past, the present, and the future collide.

A woman looking for love in all the wrong places; a boy-child looking for a forever family; and a man who finds everything he’s looking for. A poignant story of love, betrayal, loss, and coming of age in 1930’s Newfoundland.


  1. Replies
    1. Mary, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  2. How appropriate during our political uncertainty. This was a very informative post and The Physics of Love sounds like a great read.

    1. Marilyn: Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I guess the current political situation is what got me thinking and doing some research, because I'd once heard a story about this where the vote included the question of joining the US, and it was very close in the count, which those who wanted to join the US objected to. However, when I read about the referendum for this piece, I learned that there were some embellishments that weren't quite true.

  3. Loved learning this bit of information. And you are so right that it fits nicely during this election year. :-)

    1. Hi Patricia: Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. The thing that always interested me about this particular referendum was that long before I knew anything about it, I would stand on the shore and look south to the US and say, "Why didn't my ancestors stay on the boat another few days until they got to the US?" Even as a kid, being an American seemed the highest calling a person could have. I know now that being a Child of the One True Living God is a much higher calling, and am blessed to be His. But I am also coming up on my 9th anniversary as a US citizen. Canadian by birth, American by choice!

  4. Thanks for your very timely post. We are currently witnessing election campaigns almost beyond imagination.

  5. I am a historical junkie myself and it's always fascinating to learn new historical things. Thank you for the very interesting timely post.