Friday, February 26, 2016

Smallwood from 1928: 'Let us spurn this Confederation talk, fellow Newfoundlanders'

The following letter was published in the April 25th, 1928 edition of Corner Brook’s Western Star.

Confederation and—

Dear Sir,

In a recent issue you commented upon the current Confederation discussions, and asked: “Why shouldn’t Newfoundland confederate with Canada?” or words to that effect. This Confederation talk is on par with the talk about reverting to Crown Colony status, and about Royal Commission rule.

All three of these schemes have a common denominator—they arise from the same causes. On the one hand you have people who sincerely believe that Newfoundland is not capable of governing herself well. These people have their eyes on the present economic, social and political conditions. They say: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Look at the state of affairs around us! Have we not proved our inability to govern ourselves?” They are sincere, if mistaken.

On the other hand you have a group of people who adopt their attitude for petty, prejudicial political reasons. These people are mostly anti-Liberal. To them the policies of the Liberal are anathema, and the name of Sir Richard Squires a hateful name. 

They were narrowly opposed to Sir Robert Bond. They continued their hatred when Sir Richard became Prime Minister. They hounded Sir Richard Squires night and day, and great was their glee when Squires was forced out of office. 

They swore that he should never again occupy the exalted position of Prime Minister of Newfoundland. They supported the present Tory Party in 1924, and since 1924 they have had their innings. Their innings are rapidly coming to an end. The handwriting is on the wall. 

They know that no effort of theirs can possibly keep the people from sending Squires back to the Prime Minister’s office with the greatest electoral and parliamentary majority ever witnessed in this Island. This infuriates them. Hence all the crazy talk about Confederation, Crown Colony status, royal Commission rule, etc. They would almost rather sell Newfoundland to the devil than have Sir Richard Squires become Prime Minister.

I have travelled a great deal of Newfoundland, and while editor of the Daily Globe and of the Labour Outlook I received daily a great quantity of correspondence from all parts of Newfoundland. I know that the people of Newfoundland do not favour Confederation. My grandfather, David Smallwood, now 90 years of age, fought for Confederation in that famous election. I would fight against Confederation in any shape or form, now or at any time in the future. 

Why should Newfoundland enter the Confederation with Canada? What possible good would it do us? Politically it would submerge us underneath a weight of strongly organized, well-knit Provincial groupings that know what they want and how to get it. In a parliament at Ottawa which is bossed, controlled and dominated by the Western block, the Ontario bloc, and the Quebec bloc, what earthly chance would Newfoundland have of being heard or of being given any attention? Under these conditions Newfoundland would be like the flea on Noah’s ark, “Said the flea to the elephant, ‘Who are you shoving?’” 

I do not mean to say that Newfoundland wouldn’t have big men to send to Ottawa as representatives. A Squires or a Coaker, or a Lloyd would not be dummies by a long shot. But in a parliament of hundreds of members from the Pacific eastward to Quebec, what could half a dozen voters accomplish? Mr. Lloyd George is a big man. But in a  British parliament as a spokesman of a handful what ice does he cut today? 

Economically we would not benefit. What Newfoundland needs above everything else—apart from the supreme need of another era of the kind of statesmanship that gave us the Railway, Grand Falls, Bell Island and Corner Brook—is Capital. It matters little whether it be Canadian or American capital—the dollar knows no flag! 

If Canadian capitalists desire to invest in Newfoundland they will do so irrespective of whether Newfoundland is governing herself as now, or is a Crown Colony, or under a Royal Commission, or in Confederation with Canada. The same thing applies to the United States. The fact that Canada flies the Union Jack, and flies it proudly, has not prevented the Americans from investing about four thousand million dollars in Canadian industries—about as much again as Great Britain has invested in Canada.

Let us spurn this Confederation talk, fellow Newfoundlanders! We posses the men of brains who can govern this country, and transform it into a happy, prosperous, developing Island, with its chin held high, its eyes unafraid, its heart being rythmetically. Have faith in Newfoundland, give the governing of the island over to our best sons, as we will very soon silence the calamity howlers and visionless croakers. 

Yours sincerely, J.R. Smallwood, Corner Brook

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