- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 8 Mar 1945, p. 328-350
- Puddester, Sir John, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Adverse publicity in the Canadian press regarding Newfoundland. Some Newfoundland history. The lack of knowledge of Newfoundland by people in other parts of Canada, with some illustrative examples. A Newfoundlander's experience in other parts of Canada similar to the Canadian experience in the United States. A description of Newfoundland under the following headings: Discovery and Colonization; Population; Early Settlement and Colonization; Strategical Importance; Climate; Religion; Nationality; Education; Government; Government of Today. Prosperity since 1941 in Newfoundland. Trials and struggles to be faced in the postwar period. Newfoundland's national ode.
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- 8 Mar 1945
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AN ADDRESS BY SIR JOHN PUDDESTER, LL.D.
Chairman: The President, Mr. C. R. Conquergood
Thursday, March 8, 1945
MR. CONQUERGOOD: The past five years of war have seen a remarkable development in Trans-Atlantic flying. We now take the regular scheduled flights so much for granted that we scarcely recall that five short years ago a Trans-Atlantic flight in either direction was almost "headline" news.
In the development of the Trans-Atlantic Aerial Service, a most significant and vital part was centered in Britain's oldest colony in the New World--Newfoundland. On this account, in addition to the part taken by Newfoundland in guarding the Atlantic sea lanes, it is especially appropriate that The Empire Club today should devote its meeting to the affairs of our neighbor. We are privileged to have as our guest speaker Sir John Puddester.
Sir John Puddester was born at Northern Bay in Newfoundland and educated in high school and in the Methodist College in St. Johns. After three years in the teaching profession, he joined the staff of the Reid Newfoundland Company as accountant, and rose to become the assistant comptroller and auditor. From 1916 to 1932 he was on the staff of Robinson & Co. Ltd. as managing director of the Daily News. He was elected to the Legislature in 1924 and on his re-election in 1932 entered the Cabinet as Secretary of State.
When the Government was placed in the hands of a Commission in 1934, he was one of the six Commission ers to be appointed, and took charge of the Departments of Public Health, Welfare, Labor and Pensions. He was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Commission in 1937, an appointment which he still holds. In fact, he is the only one of the original Commissioners still in office. This record is the more creditable since in the past ten years of Commission Government, there have been 16 different appointees.
When King George VI visited Newfoundland in 1939, he personally conferred the degree of Knight Bachelor on Sir John for his distinguished service to his native land and to the Empire. He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Mount Allison University in New Brunswick in 1939.
Sir John served as Food Controller for Newfoundland from September, 1939, to April, 1944. He is a frequent traveller to Ottawa, Washington and London. He took a leading part in the opening of a fine new hospital recently in St. John's. He is active in the affairs of his church, as well as in education and is popular with the service men stationed in Newfoundland.
We especially welcome today among our guests, many who claim Newfoundland as their birthplace and have come to live with us here in Toronto.
It is a pleasure to present to The Empire Club, Sir John Puddester, LL.D., Vice-Chairman of the Commission Government of Newfoundland, who will now address us on "Newfoundland".
SIR JOHN PUDDESTER: Mr. President and Gentlemen of The Empire Club of Canada: My first word is one of sincere appreciation for the high honour that you have conferred upon me today in asking me to address this Empire Club. It is deeply appreciated because of the fact that you have thus honoured one who comes from the bleak shores of Newfoundland. You have heard lately that 63 per cent of our population, Sir, are half starved. Now, 63 per cent is a very large proportion of the people of Newfoundland, and I congratulate those Newfoundlanders whom I see before me today, because many of you were so lucky in getting away from Newfoundland before the days of starvation began.
This address or this talk that I am going to deliver to you today was prepared before I saw these articles, this adverse publicity in the Canadian Press. If this talk had not been prepared before, I can assure you it would have resulted in my delivering something different to you, and in a different tone, from what I am going to say today. I don't look half-starved and, as I said to a reporter the other day, I don't see very much difference between the people of Newfoundland, that I meet on Water Street in St. John's, and the people that I meet on Yonge Street in Toronto, or on St. Catherine Street in Montreal.
Moreover, you would think that I came here on a recruiting party, recruiting labour to come to Newfoundland and help to build the bases and build the airports. Well, there are about 25,000 men who claim to be fishermen in Newfoundland and of those 25.000 we had 22,000 working on the bases in 1942 and 1943, and as 25,000 was the extent of the labour engaged on the bases, we couldn't have imported very many men when we had 22,000 of our own working. Now, you people, be careful that I don't recruit you while I am here and take you down to Newfoundland to help in what we are going to build between now and the time the war is over.
However, Sir, by way of introduction, I want to talk to you a little bit about Newfoundland history. It is a large subject and my account must of necessity be somewhat sketchy; but I want to cover as much as I possibly can and give you at least the highlights of our history. I hope you will not be disappointed.
I accented your invitation, Mr. President, because I believe that we in Newfoundland should have much closer co-operation with the people of Canada than we really have, and the people of Canada should have more contact, perhaps, than they have with the people of Newfoundland.
For instance, I got into a taxi-cab the other day and, starting up through the streets of Toronto, I fell into conversation with the driver. I said, "What is the number of this street?" He asked, "You don't know Toronto very well?"
I said, "I have quite a few friends here, I have been here quite a few times." He said, "Where do you come from?" "Newfoundland": "Oh, that is a wonderful coun try. That is where you keep the cattle pasturing all the year round."
I have met men, since I came to Toronto this last summer, who don't know much about Newfoundland, and if I can be of any assistance today, in telling you what and where Newfoundland is, what kind of history it has, the political outlook, and otherwise, I shall be very glad.
In no small measure the reason for this lack of knowledge is our proximity to a neighbour so huge in population, as we think Canada is, twelve million against our three hundred and twenty thousand, vastly industrialized and so favored with wealth, compared with Newfoundland.
When you visit the United States, you probably feel exactly as we Newfoundlanders do when we visit the great land of Canada. We are a people about one-third of the population of Toronto, having to carry on Government with an overhead as heavy as the government of any country with ten times its population but only equal, or even smaller, in square miles of territory.
Mr. Napier Moore, Editor of MacLean's Magazine, in an account of a trip to the United States in the January 15th issue of that excellent publication, tells of an incident where a university student in a Missouri city, to whom he showed a two dollar Canadian bill, was surprised that it should be in dollars and not in pounds. She said, "I listened to you talking about dollars but I thought you people in Canada used pounds and shillings." Well, that is somewhat similar to an experience met with in a Toronto newspaper office. A young Toronto Navy man, stationed in Newfoundland for some time and who was mothered by my wife at our home, was coming to Toronto for Christmas leave in 1943. I gave him money to pay my subscription to a Toronto newspaper and on visiting the office he was served by a young girl, to whom he paid the money and gave the other necessary information. She said in surprise, "So you have been to Newfoundland. What are the natives like? Are they nearly all Esquimaux? How did you exist in the cold climate? What kind of clothing did you wear?" et cetera. Well, the Toronto damsel was the most surprised person when she heard the true story of our Newfoundland mode of living from Warren Robinson, that excellent son of your excellent member of the Toronto Board of Education, Mrs. May Robinson.
Mr. Moore goes on to describe graphically some of the mighty industries and activities of the United States and says this: "There were times when, as a Canadian, I felt pretty small and humble". That, Mr. President, is just my feeling when I see the great cities of Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and their great and mighty industries, the farm lands of Ontario and Quebec and the great prairie lands of Western Canada. Mr. Moore concludes by saying: "A nation of more than 130 million people is on the move". I say also, after visiting the railway stations and airports of Canada, that a nation of twelve million people 'is on the move.
Newfoundland: What and where is it? What kind of a history, political and economic, has it had? It is an Island situated at the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and forms a stepping stone, so my old geography used to tell me, between the Old World and the New. It has the shape of an irregular triangle-from North to South it measures 316 miles and from East to West 317 miles. It has an area of 42,000 square miles. It has a coast line inclusive of its deep bays and inlets, of approximately 6,000 miles. It is in latitude 46°30' South and S1°30' West-approximately the same latitude as Paris, capital of France. Its dependency, Labrador, has an area of 110,000 square miles and a coast line of 1,200 miles. It is about the tenth island, in size, in the world.
Discovery and Colonization: It was discovered by John Cabot and his son Sebastian in the year 1497. Several attempts were made at colonization during the next two hundred years. In 1583 the Island was taken possession of by Sir Humphry Gilbert in the name of Queen Elizabeth. Colonization was slow from then onwards and the idea seemed to prevail that it was only a land of fishermen with whom the West Coast of England merchants could trade. They would come to Newfoundland every spring and return in the fall. It was looked upon as a land, where people came in the summer season to fish for cod, and nothing more.
Population: This has been of a very slow growth. Up to the beginning of the present century the population was not more than 220,000. Since then it has reached around the 320,000 mark. To be exact, at the last census, 1935, Newfoundland and Labrador together had a population of 289,516. In the ten-year period since then another thirty thousand should be added, making it, as I say, around 320,000. The capital is St. John's, with a population of about 60,000. Other fairly large towns are Corner Brook and Grand Falls, two paper mill towns, with populations around 8,000 to 10,000. The remainder of the population is scattered around the coast line in about 1,300 settlements and towns, almost 1,000 of which are populated by less than 100 people.
Lord Ammon Leader of the Good Will Mission of 1943, has this to say of its people. "I should here record my appreciation of the integrity, shrewdness and high level of intelligence of the Newfoundlanders. They are, on the whole, a kindly, hospitable people, hard-working yet easy-going, well-mannered but outspoken, thrifty but generous to strangers. Living in close contact with nature, employed for the most part on hard and often dangerous manual work, they have an ingrained healthy contempt for danger; an easy-perhaps too easy-philosophy that tomorrow will look after itself, and an ability to turn their hands to anything from boat-building to home construction. Their aptitude as seamen is well-known, and their contribution in man-power to this war requires no comment here. It would be hard to find a more loyal and ' delightful people".
Early Settlement and Colonization: It may be interesting to give a few figures relative to the growth of the English population. I have said that colonization was slow; there were, of course, definite obstacles in the way of those who wished to settle.
In those early days the prolific fisheries were the token of all wealth, and those who controlled the fisheries exercised a monopoly, which for a time shaped the political, economic and social life of the country. During all the preceding years from the earliest days to 1774, Newfoundland had witnessed a struggle between the English merchants who controlled the fisheries, and persons who wished to establish themselves as permanent residents.
The participation of many nations in the profits of the Newfoundland fisheries indicates how prolific that source of wealth was, and how eagerly those adventurers of Europe came on their ships to crowd her waters in the days before colonization had begun. We find one Anthony Parkhurst, a merchant of Bristol, England, describing conditions as he found them during his several voyages to the Island, prior to 1578. In that year Parkhurst counted one hundred sail of Spaniards cod-fishing; thirty Spanish ships killing whales; fifty sail of Portuguese; one hundred and fifty sail of French, and of English only fifty sail.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert, in 1583, found in the harbour of St. John's, twenty Spanish and Portuguese ships, and sixteen English ships, but the English and French soon eliminated all other contenders. Gradually, the English superceded all others, and having obtained a virtual monopoly of the trade, there were those who wished to keep the Island as a haven for transient fishermen from the West of England, a sort of mother ship, as it were, anchored near the fishing grounds for temporary use during the fishery season.
The resident population grew slowly. In 1710 there were but eight hundred permanent residents in the whole country. In 1738 these had increased to eighteen hundred souls, while in 1754 there were thirty-four hundred persons. At that time (1754) the members of English ships' crews engaged in fishing, who returned to England each year when the fishery ended, totalled forty-five hundred, and out-numbered the settlers. However, between 1764 and 1774 permanent residents continuously out-numbered visitors with an annual average of 12,340.
Strategical Importance: The desires of those early fishery monopolists to restrict settlement of the Island resulted in some peculiar legislative enactments by Governments in Britain.
The cultivation of the soil by permanent residents, or for that matter by any other person, was strictly forbidden. Here is the wording of a Proclamation issued by the Governor of the Island in 1810--Sir John Duckworth :"Whereas I have observed, and otherwise understood, that enclosures have been made to great extent and land cultivated throughout the district of Conception Bay, without any grant for that purpose or authority from the Governor of any description, all persons are hereby warned that, as such proceeding is in direct opposition to the positive instructions of His Majesty, if anyone shall attempt to make any enclosure or to occupy land for the purposes of cultivation or otherwise it will be at the imminent risk of forfeiting all the labour and expense that he may have bestowed upon it, as he would assuredly be dispossessed the moment it should come to the knowledge of the Governor."
Many selfish restrictions were imposed at the instance of fishery monopolists to prevent the permanent colonization and development of Newfoundland. But by 1775 the tables were turning, and we find the number of inhabitants increasing in 1797 to seventeen thousand, and in 1804 to twenty thousand, and in 1882 to fifty-two thousand, without any corresponding increase on the part of the transient fishermen, but the French were not to relinquish their asserted claim to the wealth of Newfoundland's fisheries without a struggle, and so for many years there was keen rivalry between England and France for control of Newfoundland. There was indeed a very good reason why Newfoundland was then to be only a battle ground in the, cause of the Empire. The two great colonizing powers of England and France were beginning to establish themselves on the American mainland and the great Island of Newfoundland was standing, a stern and rugged sentinel across the great St. Lawrence waterway.
Virginia was colonized in 1609; the Pilgrim Fathers landed to establish New England a few years later. Lord Baltimore, formerly Sir George Calvert, established Maryland in 1632, having moved from Newfoundland where he established Ferryland on the southeastern seaboard-all English colonies.
And what of France? She, too, was not idle during that period. The ships of Cartier had carried the flag of France to America's shores, and in that perilous path the gallant Champlain followed. Port Royal (Montreal) became a French colony in 1604 and Quebec followed in 1608. After that came the great La Salle, who carved a way from the headwaters of the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, with the ambitious plan to cut off English settlers from western expansion.
And so the possession of Newfoundland was of great strategic value to both France and England in those days. You have only to look at the map to see its great importance. Historians give to Sir Walter Raleigh the credit for great political insight when he wrote of Newfoundland: "If she should be lost it would be the greatest blow that was ever given to England." When Raleigh wrote that statement, Newfoundland was being shaped as the overseas corner stone of a greater Britain, chiselled and laid by men who even then builded better than they knew.
During the war years that followed, which saw the gigantic struggle between England and France for supremacy in sea-power and world trade, Newfoundland's strategic position astride the Gulf of St. Lawrence was enhanced. Nor have the centuries diminished it, for in today's tremendous struggle for the preservation of 'Our Way of Life' the old Island stands a sturdy guardian of security for the millions of free people who live on the American Continent.
Those early settlers in Newfoundland endured much in common with all pioneers of our Western civilization. Their path was beset with economic difficulties. The war years, from 1800 to 1815, greatly reduced the number of voyages made by transient fishermen from Britain, and the inhabitants gradually acquired and maintained a monopoly of the fisheries. In 1824 the increasing strength and importance of the inhabitants secured the repeal of certain oppressive and absolete fishing enactments, and the Island was stepped up to the status of a Colony.
There was great prosperity during the War of 1812 for Newfoundland, but after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when peace was restored by the Treaty of Paris, fishing privileges of French and American fishermen were enlarged around the banks and shores of Newfoundland. Not only were foreign fishermen enabled to compete in the same field of production but the Governments of those countries, namely France and the United States, established a system of bounties for their fishermen, and by also imposing high import duties, blocked the entry of Newfoundland fish into their own markets. Lean years followed for the Newfoundland colonists, and a terrible fire in 1817 augmented their troubles.
The period from 1834 to 1841 saw many organized attempts to foster agriculture. Liberal grants of land were made to settlers. Considerable sums of money were provided for road construction. The invention of steam made possible a regular mail service with the outside world. But again in 1846 came a horrible disaster through fire, to the City of St. John's, causing damage to the value of $5,000,000; and twelve thousand persons were rendered homeless. Canada quickly came to the aid of the stricken population, other assistance from England, -and local private efforts aided many families to overcome the pressing needs of the moment.
But the great fire of 1846 was not the only tragic event. A great storm, said by a historian to have been "fiercer than the wildest within living memory", destroyed the bulk of shipping and swept away many substantial warehouses and stores. As one writer of that clay put it, "the malice of destiny had sent the gale to destroy the little that had escaped the fire," for the temporary buildings, being used to house the homeless, were destroyed also.
In 1892, on July 8th, came the most disastrous of all the fires that had afflicted St. John's, the Island capital. A mile of wharfage was destroyed, and the business section was wiped out completely. Ten thousand persons were rendered homeless, and the total damage was more than twenty millions of dollars. As in 1846, the sympathy of the Canadian people was promptly and warmly shown.
Climate: The climate is temperate. Seldom does the thermometer fall below zero in winter or rise above 80° in summer. This applies to the coastal settlements. In the interior at Bishop's Falls the temperature sometimes descends to ten below, but this is not often. And the present winter we have just passed has been the mildest in thirty years in contra-distinction with what you have had in Toronto. You may think we have had nothing but gales or snow, but I have never yet heard of a street car turning over on its own tracks.
Newfoundland decidedly is not as cold as the Prairie Provinces of Canada or the Middle West of the United States. In fact this climate has been stated by visiting writers to be quite salubrious. Our disadvantage is a short summer with a long drawn out spring, especially if the east wind prevails.
I was telling Dr. Cochrane, when he came down two or three years ago, that he was lucky to come in the summer because we have just three seasons in Newfoundland, so the wags say, July, August, and Winter. Those of you who come in July and August will find the climate quite salubrious and I am sure you will enjoy it. Don't come, please, in March or April, but any other month in the year you can come down.
Religion: According to statistics of the 1935 census, Roman Catholics numbered 94,000; Church of England 92,500; Non-comformists 100,000, and Jews and other sects, 2,700.
Nationality: Out of the total population in 1935, only 653 persons were not of British descent. It is often said that we are more British than the British Isles--and we boast of our loyalty to the British Crown. We keep a number of holidays in this connection, in addition to a number of commercial holidays-for instance, the King's Birthday, Empire Day, St. George's Day, April 23rd, St. Patrick's Day, March 17, Robbie Burns' Anniversary, January 25th, with the 12th of July, the Orangemen's Day, thrown in for good measure.
Education: Education is administered by a Department of the Central Government presided over by a Commissioner. We have made some progress known as Denominational. In the Department there is a permanent head; known as the Secretary for Education, who may belong to any of the religious denominations. Under him are Chief Executive Officers and Assistant Executive Officers for each of the principal religious denominations. There is also a staff of Supervisors for each denomination.
The grants are administered by the Chief Executive Officers under the Secretary. In 1942, free and compulsory education was introduced in the Elementary schools for children from seven to fourteen years of age. The education grant is voted each year by the Central Government. Last year the grant was approximately three million dollars. In the early 'Nineties of the last century the grant was only one hundred thousand dollars. During the 'Nineties it had very gradually moved to one million dollars.
Forty Rhodes Scholars have graduated from Oxford University. We have a University College affiliated with some of the universities of Canada. We hope to have a new Newfoundland University within another year or so. Many students have come to Canada for a university education and remained, making Canada their land of adoption. Notable among them are E. J. Pratt, the poet of Victoria College, Toronto; Wm. G. Boyle, the scientist of Ottawa. In the days of the last century, we sent you a Sir Thomas Roddick. The United Church of Canada must and does give credit to the Newfoundland Conference of that Church for hundreds of its Ministers, now ministering all over Canada, who served their probationery period around the rugged shores of Newfoundland. In Toronto you have, amongst many others, Very Rev. Dr. Peter Bryce. In and around the City of Montreal there are fourteen Ministers of the United Church who claim Newfoundland as their native place. When South York sought a man to contest an election against the ExPrime Minister of Canada, it selected as a candidate an exNewfoundlander who came to Canada for an education.
I am not by any means saying that it was the right thing for South York to do, but it did it, and that is their business, not mine.
One of the senior Professors of Emmanuel College, who is engaged in preparing Ministers for the work of the United Church, was a Newfoundland probationer. He, like hundreds, yea thousands, of others came to Canada, as I said, for a university education and remained to enrich Canadian education and culture.
Government: The Government of Newfoundland has been of seven forms. 1, Fishing Admirals; 2, Governors; 3, Governor and Council; 4, Representative Government; 5, Amalgamated Government; 6, Responsible Government; 7, Government by Commission. The last has been the form since 1934. You may be interested in a short description of each form.
1. Fishing Admirals. The master of the first English fishing vessel arriving each spring at any coastal port became, for that season, Admiral of that port; the second arrival the Vice-Admiral, and the third the Rear-Admiral. They were answerable, very loosely, to the officer commanding the naval convoy ships which came here in summer to patrol the coast and convoy the vessels across the Atlantic in the autumn. St. John's, which almost from the beginning has been the Island capital, was usually governed by the commandant of the military garrison. He bore the title of "Governor"; and in his absence during the winter the officer he left in charge was known as "Lieutenant-Governor".
2. Governors. In 1729 this system was partially superceded by the appointing of a Governor of Newfoundland with a Royal Commission under Letters Patent and Royal Instructions. He resided at St. John's, but a few Governors visited some of the coast. He came in the late spring and returned to England with the convoy in the autumn. He was almost invariably the Commodore of the naval convoy fleet. In 1818 the Governor was required to live all the year around in Newfoundland.
3. Governor and Council. In 1825 single-handed rule by the Governor was modified by the creation of a sort of Advisory Council. The members of the Council were selected by the Governor and immediately answerable to him.
4. Representative Government. In 1832 Representative Government came. There was an elected Lower House, with an Upper House consisting of members selected and appointed by the Governor. This was actually the old Advisory Council somewhat glorified, and the Government consisted mainly of the Governor and this Legislative Council, or Upper House. The Government was in no sense or degree responsible to the popular assembly.
5. Amalgamated Government. This was instituted in 1843 and lasted until 1848. It was a crude attempt to combine the institution of Representative Government with Responsible Government without conceding the latter. Both Houses sat together.
6. Responsible Government. This commenced in 1855 and was superseded in 1934. Under it there continued the Lower or Elective House and the Upper House or Legislative Council. The Government, which was formed by the Leader of the majority party in the popular chamber, was responsible to that House, and could stand only as long as it enjoyed the confidence of the elected representatives.
7. The Commission of Government. Under new Letters Patent and Royal Instructions, Newfoundland is ruled by the Governor (who is appointed by the King, as always in the past) assisted by a Commission of Government, the members of which are also appointed by the King upon the advice of the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. Three of the six Commissioners are to come from the United Kingdom and three from Newfoundland.
The Governor is to be the Chairman and it is provided in the Letters Patent that a Newfoundland member is to be Vice-Chairman. The administration of public affairs is carried on by six departments, over each of which a Commissioner presides. Matters of general interest are handled by the Commission of Government as a whole. All decisions of the Commission of Government may be reviewed by the Secretary of State. The Commission of Government is required to submit a general annual report of its work to the Dominions Office, which in turn presents it to the British Parliament.
The suspension of Responsible Government, and of the Letters Patent which guaranteed it, is stated in the new and present Letters Patent to be temporary. In other words, Responsible Government and Newfoundland's status as a Dominion is suspended for the time being. Responsible Government is to be restored (a) when the country becomes self-supporting again, and (b) upon request from the people of Newfoundland.
Government of Today: I am sure you are now asking a question which runs something like this:--Well, what in the world happened in 1934 that you should have relinquished Responsible Government for Government by Commission. The answer is a long story. It is the history of the country during almost one hundred years.
There have been many reasons given for the step that was taken in 1934. I may tell you what I personally think was the matter--and it is this-the eventual upheaval in 1933-34 was caused by the fact that during almost 90 years Newfoundland was conducting a government such as it could not afford. The people did not have the earning power from which the wherewithal to run a government could be found. The people could not contribute money when they did not earn it. Some people advocated direct taxation, but it was tried only on a limited scale. It would, in my opinion, have been the worst kind of folly to have enforced it. I have not time in this talk to explain why.
Borrowing had to be resorted to, and to make matters worse, it had to be external borrowing. Up to the turn of the century borrowing was kept within bounds. From 1910 to 1931 large borrowing was resorted to and in the ten years, 1921-31 the country borrowed approximately fifty million dollars. In other words, in that decade we doubled our National Debt. Previous to 1920 we fought a War, 1914-18, which cost us millions of dollars to finance. Since 1919 a war pension bill of approximately $750,000 per annum had to be shouldered. Now, that may not mean much to you people in Canada where you have twelve millions but it means a terrible lot to Newfoundland with only 300,000 people. We built, since 1881, nine hundred miles of railway and equipped it, at a cost to the people of about forty-five million dollars. These two items alone were large and burdensome enough to swamp a country double and treble our population. It was financed on borrowed money.
In the 'Twenties our people demanded a better standard of living. Then in 1931 came the great depression. Our exports were almost valueless from 1931 to 1941. Our revenue was little more than enough to meet the debt interest. Labour for our people was out of the question. Fishermen could not purchase supplies to catch fish and even if they did get the supplies the fish caught was of little value. The fisherman after each voyage found himself in debt, with no money to purchase food for his family for the winter season. With a population of only about 290,000 what could we do? Well, for good or' ill, the elected representatives of the people decided to relinquish their government, and the Mother Country took us on.
May I apply this picture to your city of Toronto. Newfoundland's population, as I said a moment ago, is about one-third of that of the city of Toronto. Think of one-third of the people of your city having to govern a country containing 6,000 miles of coast line, build railways, fight a four years war, provide for the education of its youth, establish postal and telegraph facilities, build highroads and all other kinds of communicating roads, provide aids to navigation, etc., and as far as possible give the people the amenities and comforts of life.
To make matters worse in the 'Twenties the Canadian and United States Governments put a bar on immigration. Thus our people were deprived of the earning power which they found for many years in the United States and Canada.
For almost one hundred years these were the problems we were trying to solve. The dam burst in 1931 when, as a country, our borrowing powers suddenly ceased. The Canadian banks established in Newfoundland since 1895 refused the underwriting of any further loans. We had no banks of our own. The two local banks failed in 1894; that failure brought on a crisis almost equal to that of 1931. England came to our help in 1894 and arranged a loan. In 1895 we sent delegates to Ottawa to ask Canada to consider taking us into Confederation. But it was not thought wise by your Government of that day to subsidize us to the extent of a few hundreds of thousands of dollars. By the way, it was a Conservative Government, both by name and nature, which made that decision. Since then we have not troubled you further.
Speaking of the early history of Newfoundland and relating it to the last fifty years of Responsible Government, a recent writer in the Newfoundland press had this to say
"No one likes to reveal the skeletons in his cupboard, but you cannot talk of history without revealing the facts, pleasant and unpleasant. Settlement in Newfoundland was long prohibited. The residents of the Island before that time were deserters, people who did not want to return to England for one reason or another, and perhaps a number of others to whom a hard pioneering life in Newfoundland was preferable to poverty at home. These were the foundations of our population and to remain in this Island they were forced to disperse all over the country. They settled in the scattered coves not only because they wanted fishing grounds of their own but also because they wanted to escape the notice of the Naval Governors who spent the summer on the coast and could hardly take time off to seek for deserters and other illicit settlers in every nook and cranny of the indented coastline. Yet these settlers and the few thousands who swelled their numbers after 1814 were the men who won Representative Government for Newfoundland."
"They were happy in their leadership for men with patriotism and guts were plentiful in those far off times. But dispersal, individualism and poverty were terrible handicaps to the first Colonial Governments with their paltry few hundred thousands on which to carry on the administration of the country. They had few educational opportunities and no opportunity to learn anything of political science. They were either dependent on their merchants who, when they were unable .to find the means of tiding their people over bad times, were compelled to leave them with no other sources of help than the Government."
"Thus through the period of lawful colonization restrictive forces, operating thousands of miles away, combined with poverty and an untoward reliance on Government in time of trouble, combined to create the politics of the post-1914 period, in which the people looked to the Government and the candidates for Parliament. Many of them, men of high moral repute, were compelled to cater to the people or surrender all hope of election. There were corrupt politicians. I admit that. But in the main the deterioration in politics was a consequence of the demands of the people on the politicians."
I am sure some of the M.P.'s before me will agree with that--especially Mr. McNicol.
"Now that", the writer goes on to say, "is putting it rather badly. I should perhaps qualify this and soften its effect, but the essential fact is there, and we who condemn the politicians of the past are partly answerable for the acts for which we condemn them."
"But the point I want to impress upon you is this. Politicians were as much the victims of circumstances as the people were the victims of politicians. We cannot condemn one without condemning the other. Only as we can triumph over circumstances can we make a success of any kind of government and therein lies the test of our fitness for restored autonomy".
I am quite sure that you in Canada have had somewhat similar experiences as regards the public and the politicians. Have not your demands on the politicians been heavy? I have read about some of them-especially when elections are pending.
And so in 1931 the crisis came. We struggled for almost three years before final action was taken. In the fall of 1932 we wanted one and a quarter million dollars to square our accounts. The banks refused accommodation unless guarantees were given. We appealed to the Mother Country. By an arrangment for the acceptance of a Royal Commission, the United Kingdom and Canada jointly guaranteed the amount. In March, 1933, a Royal Commission was appointed. It consisted of Right Hon. Lord Amulree, a Labour Peer, as Chairman and as the nominee of the United Kingdom, Mr. C. A. Magrath of Ottawa as the nominee of Canada and Sir William Stavert of Montreal as the nominee of Newfoundland. In November of the same year the report of that Commission was published. Its recommendations were accepted by all the governments concerned and on February 16th, 1934, Responsible Government and Dominion status were suspended and Newfoundland became a Dominion in suspended animation. Since that day the Government has been carried on by a Commission the composition of which I have already explained.
Now it would not be ethical for me to extol the achievements of the Commission. Let me say that it has some accomplishments to its credit. Newfoundland since 1939 has not taken a penny from the United Kingdom by way of grant in aid. From 1934 to 1939 the Mother Country looked after the deficits incurred. From 1934 to 1937 the British Treasury was somewhat reluctant to give us large grants in aid for rehabilitation purposes. No doubt it was believed that our trouble was political and not economic. It was clearly seen during the latter period that our trouble was almost wholly economic and not political, and the policy became more generous. Grants in aid were freely given from that time to extend our social services. Hospitals were built to the number of fifteen throughout the country. The Tuberculosis Sanitorium was doubled in capacity. The old General Hospital in St. John's was enlarged and modernized. The education grant today is six times greater than it was in 1934. Highroads have been extended by hundreds of miles.
Since 1941 prosperity has shone upon us. Today, instead of the Government begging with hat in hand for a few dollars to pay our bills, we have a deposit account in the Bank of Montreal of over thirteen million dollars and an almost like amount on loan to the Mother Country, interest free as a contribution from a small but grateful daughter country to help win the war.
A prominent Newfoundlander recently speaking in Canada has this to say of Newfoundland's experiment in govermnent: "We are now neither a Dominion nor a Crown Colony--the nearest definition one can reach is that we are a Colony with suspended Dominion status--or, as one wag put it, a Dominion on leave of absence. I believe that the experiment has been watched with some interest by other countries, I do not think that any disinterested observer could say it has been a failure; indeed, it has large number of real accomplishments to its credit, which would measure up to any similar period in the country's history."
"Its one great lack has been that of the Public Forum, where representatives chosen by the people, well or ill, debate and influence, for even in these days Parliaments do sometimes influence, public policy. Government by Commission has been an autocracy, albeit a particularly benevolent one, and the natural tendency of all autocracies is to regard anything but work as rather a waste of time, with which of course no good parliamentarian would ever agree. Thus they withdraw more and more from within the focus of the fierce light which beats perpetually upon Parliaments. In many ways this may be a desirable thing,, but there seems to be something in the Parliament system of government, which, while at close view an irritant (at least always to a section of the governed), is in balance most suited to the temperament of some peoples."
"It has been said that "Truth is hammered out on the anvil of debate", and while other things are also often hammered out, our span of life is too short to permit us to see, or even judge, the distant use or the ultimate ends. It may be that the story of England and of the British Empire has left us with a divine dissatisfaction of anything else and that, while we recognize the weaknesses of the Parliamentary system, some of there grave indeed, it is so essentially a part of us that "without it is not anything that is made".
I think it is generally accepted that at some time Newfoundland will return to the Parliamentary system of government, perhaps in the not distant future. At least, after the War in Europe is ended, the people will be asked to vote by way of plebiscite as to the form of government they want. There are many within Newfoundland who shrink from what they feel may be too premature a move in this direction and their fears spring from consideration of the factors which undoubtedly played a major part in bringing about the suspension of the Constitution in 1934. There is also a reluctance to go back to the old political system and to the ways of the old political parties of the first thirty years of the Twentieth Century, with the bitterness and animosities engendered during political elections.
No one realizes better than we that the prosperity enjoyed today by Newfoundland, while sorely needed, is a fleeting one, and that the post-war years will bring their trials and struggles. Much ground has been gained, but no country can in a few years endow its future. What is to be the future? What can be done to temper the winds of adversity which racked Newfoundland so fiercely in the past? These are questions which will tax all the vision, all the ingenuity and all the courage of government in Newfoundland. I believe too that they are questions in which our continental neighbours, Canada and the United States, should exhibit a sympathetic interest, from a broad rather than a narrow viewpoint.
There has been displayed, during the war, a community of interests and action with respect to Newfoundland, in which that country itself has played a not insignificant part. This fact will be abundantly evident when the story of the Battle of the Atlantic, on sea and in the air, can be written, and the epic tale of the unending stream of planes from hemisphere to hemisphere can be told. The considerations which brought this about have been continental if not hemispherical. The benefit derived has been mutual, and Newfoundland, on its part, has much, including many acts of consideration and courtesy, for which to be grateful. It is a mistake to think that the necessity for this approach will end with the war, it should be cultivated rather than neglected, for in neglect there is decay. I commend this policy to you as representing the great Dominion of Canada. Newfoundland I believe will be quite willing to continue it.
And now may I conclude with Newfoundland's national ode: When silvern voices tune thy rills, We love thee, smiling land, We love thee, we love thee, We love thee, smiling land. When spreads thy cloak of shimmering white At Winter's stern command; Through shortened day and star-lit night We love thee, frozen land, We love thee, we love thee, We love thee, frozen land. When blinding storm-gusts fret thy shore, And wild waves lash thy strand; Through spindrift, swirl and tempest roar, We love thee, wind-swept land, We love thee, we love thee, We love thee, wind-swept land. As loved our fathers so we love, Where once they stood, we stand; This prayer we raise to Heaven above, God guard thee, Newfoundland, God guard thee, God guard thee, God guard thee, Newfoundland.