Newfoundland and Labrador Britain’s Oldest Colony – Canada’s Newest Province

Kingwell By Kingwell, 11th Apr 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

The date for the referendum that would decide how Newfoundland and Labrador would be governed in the future was set for June 3, 1948, and every Newfoundlander and Labradorian, 21 years of age and older were eligible to vote. This is the story of the campaign leading up to the referendum and the final decision.

Newfoundland and Labrador Britain’s Oldest Colony – Canada’s Newest Province

Chapter XI
Please see Chapter X
The date for the referendum that would decide how Newfoundland and Labrador would be governed in the future was set for June 3, 1948, and every Newfoundlander and Labradorean, 21 years of age and older were eligible to vote. This is the story of the campaign leading up to the referendum and the final decision.
It has been said that unless you want an argument avoid discussing either religion or politics. In the months leading up to the vote on the colony’s future, some it appears were both ready and willing to dismiss the axiom and throw all caution to the wind. Politics of course had to be discussed but sadly religion was thrown into the mix as well. It was a time when most people took their religion AND their religious leaders very seriously. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of St. John’s, E. P. Roach was a vocal opponent of Confederation with Canada which of course was his prerogative. When however, speaking from the pulpit, one Sunday morning at the St. John’s Basilica, he made it clear the all Roman Catholics should vote for a return to Responsible Government, as it had existed in 1934, those who supported Confederation with Canada felt he had gone too far and now the gloves were off. No one seems to know why the Archbishop opened this can of worms. Some feel that he may have favoured the Irish brand of Catholicism practiced in Newfoundland and Labrador over The French version that was prevalent in Canada, while others thought that he preferred to be a big fish in a small pond rather than small fish in a big pond. Regardless of the reason, it did not take long for the Confederates, as they were known, to fire a volley of their own.
While there was a large Catholic presence on parts of island, especially the Avalon Peninsula area which included St. John’s, they were outnumbered two to one in the colony as a whole, and the Loyal Orange Lodge was probably more prevalent than anywhere else in North America! Smallwood was not an Orangeman at the time, but Gordon Bradley was a Past Grand Master of the lodge and a letter bearing his signature was immediately drafted and sent to hundreds of branches of the order scattered throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. In essence the letter stated that the Catholics were trying to take over the country and urged all Orangemen to vote for Confederation with Canada!
The day of the referendum arrived and 88 percent of the population turned out to cast their ballot. The results were as follows:
Responsible Government - 69,400
Confederation with Canada – 64,066
Commission of Government – 22,331
There was no clear majority and none of the choices had gained over 50 percent of the vote, consequently Commission of Government was dropped from the ballot and a new referendum date of July 22, 1948 was set. The two main contenders would now go head to head!
Once again there was a large turn out with more than 85 percent of the population turning up at the polls. This time the results were as follows:
Responsible Government – 71,334
Confederation with Canada – 78,323
The Avalon Peninsula and other districts with a large percentage of Catholic voters had supported Responsible Government but Confederation with Canada had won the day and as a result negotiations for the terms of union began almost immediately. Newfoundland officially joined Canada at midnight on March 31, 1949.
Major Peter Cashin, the leader and chief spokesman for the anti-confederates as they were known, remained adamant however, going to his grave believing that Responsible Government had actually won and that the referendum results had been falsified by the British!
To Be Continued



Tags

Britain, Canada, Catholicism, Confederation, France, Ireland, Kingwell, Major Peter Cashin, Newfoundland And Labrador, Protestant, Roman Catholic

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author avatar Kingwell
I am 75 years old and retired.I like writing short stories, poetry as well other articles of interest.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
11th Apr 2013 (#)

Nail biting story, polemical politics! Thanks Kingwell - siva

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author avatar Kingwell
11th Apr 2013 (#)

Hi Siva, There is no way the written word can do justice to the emotions of the time. Perhaps a movie could do it.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
12th Apr 2013 (#)

amazing times...looking forward to the next page, thanks Kingwell..

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author avatar Kingwell
12th Apr 2013 (#)

Thank you for following.

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author avatar Songbird B
23rd Apr 2013 (#)

Never has a country been so torn apart by so few Kingwell. I knew so little of this history and yet page by page I am filling in the blanks that my education lacked..\0/x

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author avatar Kingwell
23rd Apr 2013 (#)

Thanks Songbird. So good of you to come here time after time.

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