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.
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.