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Unit 2: Chapter 4

How the people were governed.

Outcomes: 2.4.1 2.4.13

Colonial Building

The seat of the Newfoundland government and the House of Assembly from

January 28, 1850 to July 28, 1959

Confederation Building

When first completed in 1960, the building housed all departments, boards and commissions of the
provincial government.

Timeline Pg. 70

Study and review timeline.

Know the dates of when the different events occurred.




Key words Page 68

Naval Governor The person appointed to run the political, military and judiciary affairs of
Newfoundland in the early 1800s. This person would live here only during the migratory fishing season.

Civil Governor An employee of the British government who would take suggestions from a appointed
local council but who did not have to take their advice. The British government still had final control.

Crown Colony To be considered a colony of The British Empire. This meant that the people would now
have some say in how they were governed and there would be a civil governor instead of a naval
governor. Newfoundland became a crown colony in 1824.

Electoral District An area, where people living there, vote for a representative to the House of
Assembly. In Newfoundland in 1832 there were 9 electoral district.
Disenfranchised the feeling of having no say in the decisions that government makes. Not having the
right to vote.

Confederation the joining together of, for example, several small countries to form a larger one.
Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949.

Denominational Education a church ran school system.

Factors that led to the establishment of colonial status in 1824:

1. In the early 1800s Newfoundland was viewed by the British government as a Fishing Station. They
discouraged settlement.

2. The system of government consisted of a naval governor who only stayed in Newfoundland for part of
the year.

3. Between 1816-1818 the price of fish fell and the level of poverty increased. A large number of Irish
immigrants came to the area to find work in the fishery but no work was available. As well, St. Johns
experienced a huge fire and this led to more people on the streets and in poverty. The British
government for the first time made the naval governor stay year round.

4. There was also some political unrest in Newfoundland with many of the people criticizing the naval
government for not letting them have any say in how they were being run. The reformers wanted the
same rights as the other colonies in the British Commonwealth.

5. In 1824 the British government finally agreed Newfoundland was not a fishing station anymore and
granted it the title of Crown Colony. Newfoundland finally had some say in its affairs.

Key Point: The new civil governor could seek advice but did not have to put their recommendations in

Representative Government was the constitutional arrangement found in British North American
colonies until the late 1840s and 1850s. It consisted of 3 parts: there was an elected House of
Assembly, the legislative council and a governor. The legislative council and governor were appointed by
the British government, to whom they were responsible. Granted to Newfoundland in 1832.

The people had no real power.

Responsible Government Voters could elect a legislative assembly. This elected assembly approved
members to an executive council made up of members from the winning political party (like a present
day cabinet). The leader of the winning party is the premier. Legislative council and the elected
assembly made the laws.

The people have power.

In 1832 Newfoundland received representative government. This came about after the hard work of
reformers such as William Carson and Patrick Morris. They fought for representative government
because they believed that the people of Newfoundland needed to control their own fate in life.

Many of the elected officials under representative government felt that this type of government was not
working. The governor and legislative council were not listening to the needs of the people. There was
also a lot of arguing between groups especially along religious lines and very little government work got

This led to groups of reformers asking and receiving responsible government for Newfoundland in 1855.

After 1832, 2 political parties emerged.

The Conservative Party was largely composed of Protestants and was closely associated with the
colonys administrative and mercantile elite, many of whom were Anglicans.

The Liberal Party, on the other hand, represented the Roman Catholic population of Irish birth or
descent, and was closely associated with the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1855 when the first responsible government was formed, the Liberal Party formed the government
and Phillip Little became the first Premier of Newfoundland.

In 1861, the governor dismissed the Liberal government and installed the Conservatives. This caused
major problems and soon there were riots on the streets of St. Johns. The riots only ended when a
compromise was reached between the disputing groups.

A denominational compromise emerged in public life. It became the unwritten rule that governments,
and therefore political parties, should include members of all the churches. In addition, legislature and
the civil service came to reflect the denominational composition of the population, and the school
system was effectively turned over to the major churches. With the rules laid down, public and political
life could move on to issues that concerned all Newfoundlanders, no matter what their religious
In 1869, there was movement to see Newfoundland wanted to join Canada. The Confederates led by
Frederic Carter, felt that this would be a positive move and would help Newfoundland become more

The Anti Confederates led by Charles Fox Bennett, felt that this was a bad idea and would lead to more
taxes and harder way of life.

The issue of confederation went to an election and the anti confederates won 21 of the 30 seats in the
House of Assembly thus ensuring that Newfoundland remained an independent country.

Primary Source Feature Page 79

The Confederation Debate

The Railway

The main arguments in favour of building a railway were linked to economic development. Times were
hard in the 1870s and the government wanted to try and provide help to its people. They felt that not
only would the construction create jobs, but by providing access to the interior and other areas difficult
to reach (given the absence of roads), the line would encourage lumbering, farming and mining.

The railway enthusiasts also placed great faith in the economic potential of the islands west coast (part
of the French Shore Treaty), which was thought to have farm land, minerals, and forests in abundance.

Bank Crash 1894

On December 10, 1894 (Black Monday), 2 of Newfoundland and Labradors 3 banks, the Commercial and
the Union Banks, closed their doors and never opened again.

The reasons for the collapse are:

1. The fishery made up 90% of Newfoundlands exports. There was a series of bad years in the salt fish
and seal industries and many of the merchants went into serious debt.

2. Newfoundland imported practically everything it consumed and this was creating more debt for the
3. The deaths of a number of prominent merchants and the withdrawal of investment money
contributed to the economic collapse.

The impacts were immediate and widespread businesses collapsed, workers became suddenly
unemployed, families lost their savings, and the country, which used the bank notes as its main source
of currency had to use the Canadian dollar.

William Ford Coaker helped form the Fisherman Protective Union (FPU) in 1908. The group was formed
by 19 fishermen in the community of Herring Neck. The aim of the organization was to provide a greater
share of the wealth from the labour that they produced. (i.e. the fishery)

By 1914, the FPU had 20 000 members and they had a number of goals that they were working towards.
1st: they wanted to reform the truck system because they felt it left the fishermen powerless. 2nd: they
wanted to reform the government. They felt that the government was controlled by the wealthy that
had very little understanding of the needs of the working people.

The FPU also sought political representation so they could influence governments decisions. They had a
number of objectives, known as the Bonavista Platform, which called for political reform in the areas of
fisheries, social policy and governance.

The FPU was somewhat successful in implementing improvements for the fishermen but by the late
1920s the union began to lose some of its power and political clout.

The FPU also created its own town, Port Union and set up a successful trading company to import the
goods and supplies that the fishermen needed.

The governments response to many crisis in the 1890s was varied. There were 3 major crisis in the

St. Johns Fire of 1892

The government approved the chartering of vessels to go to Halifax and New York for provisions to
support the people who were displaced.

They organized a professional fire department in St. Johns to help respond to future fires.

They took immediate steps to provide shelter for the homeless. Tents were set up at Quidi Vidi Lake as
well as, the grounds of Government House and Bannerman Park.
French Shore Crisis

The French Shore was an area that originally went from Cape Bonavista to Point Riche on the Northern
Peninsula. In 1873, The French Shore was moved to include the area from Cape St. John down to Cape
Ray on the southwest coast of the island. The French had exclusive fishing rights in this area and they
were allowed to catch and land fish in this area.

Soon after this English settlers started moving into the French Shore area. The government had police
officers and magistrates move into the area as well. People began to pay taxes and with this they
demanded to have more rights in the area.

A controversy started when the French wanted to take part in the lobster fishery. The English settlers
said that the French did not have rights to participate as the French Shore said they could only catch

Newfoundlands foreign affairs were controlled by the British Government and as such the British
Government intervened on behalf of Newfoundland to resolve this issue. An agreement was reached
between the French and British that would see the French Shore given to the Newfoundland and the
British would give France some territory in West Africa. This agreement would be known as the entente

Bank Crash of 1894

The government responded to the Bank Crash when Premier Whiteway initiated confederation talks
again with Canada. The talks failed but the Canadian banks moved in to replace the Newfoundland
banks and the Canadian dollar became legal currency in Newfoundland.

Read Pg. 72

Carson and Morris

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