Newfoundland was a British dominion from 1907 to 1949. The dominion, situated in northeastern North America along the Atlantic coast, comprised the island of Newfoundland as well as Labrador on the continental mainland. Before attaining dominion status, Newfoundland was a British colony, self-governing from 1855.
Newfoundland was one of the original "dominions" within the meaning of the Statute of Westminster of 1931 and accordingly enjoyed a constitutional status equivalent to the other dominions at the time. In 1934, Newfoundland became the only dominion to give up its self-governing status, ending 79 years of self-government.
This episode came about due to a crisis in Newfoundland's public finances in 1932. Newfoundland had accumulated a significant amount of debt by building a railway across the island (completed in the 1890s) and by raising its own regiment for the First World War. In November 1932 the government warned that Newfoundland would default on payments on the public debt. The British government quickly established the Newfoundland Royal Commission to inquire into and report on the position. The Commission's report, published in October 1933, recommended that Newfoundland give up its system of self-government temporarily and allow the United Kingdom to administer the dominion through an appointed commission.
The Newfoundland parliament accepted this recommendation and presented a petition to the King asking for the suspension of the constitution and the appointment of commissioners to administer the government until the country became self-supporting again. To enable compliance with this request, the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Newfoundland Act 1933, and on 16 February 1934, the UK government appointed six commissioners, three from Newfoundland and three from the UK, with the Governor as chairman. The dominion would never become self-governing again. The system of a six-member Commission of Government continued to govern Newfoundland until it joined Canada in 1949 to become Canada's tenth province.
Motto: Quaerite Prime Regnum Dei (Latin)
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God"
Anthem: Ode to Newfoundland
|Status||Dominion in real union with the United Kingdom|
Dominion in personal union with the United Kingdom
Dependency of the United Kingdom
|Edward VII (first)|
|George VI (last)|
|William MacGregor (first)|
|Gordon Macdonald (last)|
|Robert Bond (first)|
|Frederick C. Alderdice (last)|
|Legislature||House of Assembly|
|Historical era||World War I|
World War II
• Semi-independent Dominion
|26 September 1907|
• Fully sovereign Dominion
(Statute of Westminster 1931)
|11 December 1931|
• British Dominion-dependency
(Commission of Government)
|16 February 1934|
• Province of Canada
|31 March 1949|
|Today part of|
The official name of the dominion was "Newfoundland" and not, as is sometimes reported, "Dominion of Newfoundland". The distinction is apparent in many statutes, most notably the Statute of Westminster that listed the full name of each realm, including the "Dominion of New Zealand", the "Dominion of Canada", and "Newfoundland".
The Newfoundland Blue Ensign was used as the colonial flag from 1870 to 1904. The Newfoundland Red Ensign was used as the 'de facto' national flag of the dominion until the legislature adopted the Union Flag on 15 May 1931.
The anthem of the Dominion was the "Ode to Newfoundland", written by British colonial governor Sir Charles Cavendish Boyle in 1902 during his administration of Newfoundland (1901 to 1904). It was adopted as the dominion's anthem on 20 May 1904, until confederation with Canada in 1949. In 1980, the province of Newfoundland re-adopted the song as a provincial anthem, making Newfoundland and Labrador the only province in Canada to adopt a provincial anthem. The "Ode to Newfoundland" continues to be heard at public events in the province; however, only the first and last verses are traditionally sung.
In 1854 the British government established Newfoundland's responsible government. In 1855, Philip Francis Little, a native of Prince Edward Island, won a parliamentary majority over Sir Hugh Hoyles and the Conservatives. Little formed the first administration from 1855 to 1858. Newfoundland rejected confederation with Canada in the 1869 general election. Prime Minister of Canada Sir John Thompson came very close to negotiating Newfoundland's entry into confederation in 1892.
It remained a colony until the 1907 Imperial Conference resolved to confer dominion status on all self-governing colonies in attendance. The annual holiday of Dominion Day was celebrated each 26 September to commemorate the occasion.
Newfoundland's own regiment, the 1st Newfoundland Regiment, fought in the First World War. On 1 July 1916, the German Army wiped out most of that regiment at Beaumont Hamel on the first day on the Somme, inflicting 90 percent casualties. Yet the regiment went on to serve with distinction in several subsequent battles, earning the prefix "Royal". Despite people's pride in the accomplishments of the regiment, Newfoundland's war debt and pension responsibility for the regiment and the cost of maintaining a trans-island railway led to increased and ultimately unsustainable government debt in the post-war era.
After the war, Newfoundland along with the other dominions sent a separate delegation to the Paris Peace Conference but, unlike the other dominions, Newfoundland neither signed the Treaty of Versailles in her own right nor sought separate membership in the League of Nations.
In the 1920s, political scandals wracked the dominion. In 1923, the attorney general arrested Newfoundland's prime minister Sir Richard Squires on charges of corruption. Despite his release soon after on bail, the British-led Hollis Walker commission reviewed the scandal. Soon after, the Squires government fell. Squires returned to power in 1928 because of the unpopularity of his successors, the pro-business Walter Stanley Monroe and (briefly) Frederick C. Alderdice (Monroe's cousin), but found himself governing a country suffering from the Great Depression.
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council resolved Newfoundland's long-standing Labrador boundary dispute with Canada to the satisfaction of Newfoundland and against Canada (and, in particular, contrary to the wishes of Quebec, the province that bordered Labrador) with a ruling on 1 April 1927. Prior to 1867, the Quebec North Shore portion of the "Labrador coast" had shuttled back and forth between the colonies of Lower Canada and Newfoundland. Maps up to 1927 showed the coastal region as part of Newfoundland, with an undefined boundary. The Privy Council ruling established a boundary along the drainage divide separating waters that flowed through the territory to the Labrador coast, although following two straight lines from the Romaine River along the 52nd parallel, then south near 57 degrees west longitude to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Quebec has long rejected the outcome, and Quebec's provincially issued maps do not mark the boundary in the same way as boundaries with Ontario and New Brunswick.
Newfoundland only gradually implemented its status as a self-governing Dominion. In 1921, it officially established the position of High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (for which Sir Edgar Rennie Bowring had already assumed the role in 1918), and it adopted a national flag and established an external affairs department in 1931, after it had given its assent for the passage of the Statute of Westminster 1931.
As a small country which relied primarily upon the export of fish, paper, and minerals, Newfoundland was hit very hard by the Great Depression. Economic frustration combined with anger over government corruption led to a general dissatisfaction with democratic government. On 5 April 1932, a crowd of 10,000 people marched on the Colonial Building (seat of the House of Assembly) and forced Prime Minister Squires to flee. Squires lost an election held later in 1932. The next government, led once more by Alderdice, called upon the British government to take direct control until Newfoundland could become self-sustaining. The United Kingdom, concerned over Newfoundland's likelihood of defaulting on its war-debt payments, established the Newfoundland Royal Commission, headed by a Scottish peer, William Mackenzie, 1st Baron Amulree. Its report, released in 1933, assessed Newfoundland's political culture as intrinsically corrupt and its economic prospects as bleak, and advocated the abolition of responsible government and its replacement by a Commission of the British Government. Acting on the report's recommendations, Alderdice's government voted itself out of existence in December 1933.
In 1934, the Dominion suspended Newfoundland's self-governing status and the Commission of Government took control. Newfoundland remained a dominion in name only. Newfoundland was ruled by a governor who reported to the colonial secretary in London. The legislature was suspended.
The severe worldwide Great Depression persisted until the Second World War broke out in 1939.
Given Newfoundland's strategic location in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Allies (especially the United States of America) built many military bases there. Large numbers of unskilled men gained the first paycheques they had seen in years by working on construction and in dockside crews. National income doubled as an economic boom took place in the Avalon Peninsula and to a lesser degree in Gander, Botwood, and Stephenville. The United States became the main supplier, and American money and influence diffused rapidly from the military, naval, and air bases. Prosperity returned to the fishing industry by 1943. Government revenues, aided by inflation and new income, quadrupled, even though Newfoundland had tax rates much lower than those in Canada, Britain, or the United States. To the astonishment of all, Newfoundland started financing loans to London. Wartime prosperity ended the long depression and reopened the question of political status.
The American Bases Act became law in Newfoundland on 11 June 1941, with American personnel creating drastic social change on the island. This included significant intermarriage between Newfoundland women and American personnel.
A new political party formed in Newfoundland to support closer ties with the U.S., the Economic Union Party, which Earle characterises as "a short-lived but lively movement for economic union with the United States". Advocates of union with Canada denounced the Economic Union Party as republican, disloyal and anti-British, no American initiative for union was ever created.
As soon as prosperity returned during the war, agitation began to end the Commission. Newfoundland, with a population of 313,000 (plus 5,200 in Labrador), seemed too small to be independent. Joey Smallwood was a well-known radio personality, writer, organizer, and nationalist who long had criticized British rule. In 1945 London announced that a Newfoundland National Convention would be elected to advise on what constitutional choices should be voted on by referendum. Union with the United States was a possibility, but Britain rejected the option and offered instead two options, return to dominion status or continuation of the unpopular Commission. Canada cooperated with Britain to ensure that the option of closer ties with America was not on the referendum.
In 1946, an election took place to determine the membership of the Newfoundland National Convention, charged with deciding the future of Newfoundland. The Convention voted to hold a referendum to decide between continuing the Commission of Government or restoring responsible government. Smallwood, the leader of the confederates, moved for the inclusion of a third option — that of confederation with Canada. The Convention defeated his motion, but he did not give up, instead gathering more than 5,000 petition signatures within a fortnight, which he sent to London through the governor. Britain insisted that it would not give Newfoundland any further financial assistance, but added this third option of having Newfoundland join Canada to the ballot. After much debate, the first referendum took place on 3 June 1948, to decide between continuing with the Commission of Government, reverting to dominion status, or joining the Canadian Confederation.
Three parties participated in the referendum campaign: Smallwood's Confederate Association campaigned for the confederation option while in the anti-confederation campaign Peter Cashin's Responsible Government League and Chesley Crosbie's Economic Union Party (both of which called for a vote for responsible government) took part. No party advocated petitioning Britain to continue the Commission of Government. Canada had issued an invitation to join it on generous financial terms. Smallwood was the leading proponent of confederation with Canada, insisting, "Today we are more disposed to feel that our very manhood, our very creation by God, entitles us to standards of life no lower than our brothers on the mainland." Due to persistence, he succeeded in having the Canada option on the referendum. His main opponents were Cashin and Crosbie. Cashin, a former finance minister, led the Responsible Government League, warning against cheap Canadian imports and the high Canadian income tax. Crosbie, a leader of the fishing industry, led the Party for Economic Union with the United States, seeking responsible government first, to be followed by closer ties with the United States, which could be a major source of capital.
The result proved inconclusive, with 44.5 percent supporting the restoration of dominion status, 41.1 percent for confederation with Canada, and 14.3 percent for continuing the Commission of Government. Between the first and second referenda, rumour had it that Catholic bishops were using their religious influence to alter the outcome of the votes. The Orange Order, incensed, called on all its members to vote for confederation, as the Catholics voted for responsible government. The Protestants of Newfoundland outnumbered the Catholics by a ratio of 2:1. Some commentators believe that this sectarian divide influenced the outcome of the second referendum, on 22 July 1948, which asked Newfoundlanders to choose between confederation and dominion status, produced a vote of 51 percent to 49 percent for confederation, and Newfoundland joined Canada in the final hours of 31 March 1949.
Political parties in the Dominion of Newfoundland
The 22nd Newfoundland general election was held on 2 November 1908 to elect members of the 21st General Assembly of Newfoundland in the Dominion of Newfoundland. The seats were split evenly between the Liberal Party and the new Newfoundland People's Party formed by Edward Morris after he resigned from the Liberal government in 1907 and joined with the opposition. Robert Bond, the Liberal leader, asked the Governor William MacGregor to dissolve the assembly. MacGregor refused to do this and Bond resigned as Premier. The Governor asked Edward P. Morris to form a government. The assembly was not able to elect a speaker and, after the Governor was unable to convince the two party leaders to form a coalition government, the house of assembly was dissolved on April 9, 1909.1909 Newfoundland general election
The 23rd Newfoundland general election was held on 8 May 1909 to elect members of the 22nd General Assembly of Newfoundland in the Dominion of Newfoundland. The Newfoundland People's Party led by Edward P. Morris, having secured a majority, formed the government.1919 Newfoundland general election
The 25th Newfoundland general election was held on 3 November 1919 to elect members of the 24th General Assembly of Newfoundland in the Dominion of Newfoundland. The Liberal Reform Party, an alliance between the Liberals led by Richard Squires and the Fishermen's Protective Union of William Coaker, formed the government. The People's Party, became the Liberal-Labour-Progressive party following the election and formed the opposition. Squires served as Newfoundland prime minister.1948 Newfoundland referendums
The Newfoundland Referendums of 1948 were a series of two referendums to decide the political future of the Dominion of Newfoundland. Before the referendums, Newfoundland was in debt and went through several delegations to determine whether the country would join Canada, remain under British rule or regain independence. The voting for the referendums occurred on June 3 and July 22, 1948. The eventual result was for Newfoundland to enter Canadian Confederation.Albert Walsh
Sir Albert Joseph Walsh (April 3, 1900 – December 12, 1958) was Commissioner of Home Affairs and Education and chief justice of the dominion of Newfoundland, and its first Lieutenant Governor upon its admission to the Canadian Confederation.Confederate Association
The Confederate Association was a political party formed and led by Joey Smallwood and Gordon Bradley to advocate that the Dominion of Newfoundland join the Canadian Confederation. The party was formed on February 21, 1948 prior to the launch of the 1948 Newfoundland referendums on Confederation. The party was opposed by the Responsible Government League led by Peter Cashin and the Party for Economic Union with the United States led by Chesley A. Crosbie.
Two referendums were held as the result of the first vote in which three options were considered, Confederation, responsible government or a continuation of the Commission of Government. The first referendum, held on June 3, 1948 saw the Confederation option receive 41.1% support compared with 44.6% support for responsible government and 14.3% support for Commission of Government. The anti-Confederate forces were hampered by the split of the opposition into Crosbie and Cashin's parties with relations between the two being tense and the overall opposition lacking unity or organization. The Confederate Association, in contrast, was better funded and better organized. A second vote was held on July 22 with only Confederation and Responsible Government on the ballot in which the Confederates won with 52.3% of the vote. 
Following the referendums, the Confederate Association reorganized itself as the Newfoundland Liberal Party.Conservative parties in Newfoundland (pre-Confederation)
The Conservative Party of Newfoundland was a political party in the Dominion of Newfoundland prior to confederation with Canada in 1949.
The party was formed by members and supporters of the establishment. In the 1840s they opposed the proposal for responsible government which was finally granted in 1855. Since the concept was opposed generally by members of the Anglican establishment, the early party was almost entirely Protestant. As politics in Newfoundland developed along sectarian lines, the Conservatives became the Protestant party (with strong links to the Orange Order), while the Liberals were the Catholic party.
Under Sir Frederick Carter the Conservatives supported joining Canadian confederation, and campaigned on the proposal in the 1869 general election. The party was badly defeated by Charles Fox Bennett's Anti-Confederation Party. The Conservatives returned to power in 1874, but never proposed joining Canada again.
The Conservative party later absorbed the rival Liberals, putting an end to sectarian divisions with a 'denominational compromise'.
The united party collapsed in the 1880s when members of the Orange Order abandoned the government of William Whiteway, and formed a new Reform Party under Robert Thorburn. The Reform Party won the 1885 election on a platform of 'Protestant Rights'.
Whiteway founded a new Liberal Party after the collapse of the Reform Party. Members of the Orange Order formed a new Tory Party, which formed two short-lived administrations in the 1890s before disappearing.
Individual Conservatives were elected as Opposition or United Opposition MHAs before being subsumed into the Newfoundland People's Party formed by Edward Patrick Morris in 1907 after he resigned from the Liberal government of Sir Robert Bond.
In 1924, the Liberal-Conservative-Progressive Party was formed by members of the Liberal-Labour-Progressive party who were largely conservatives and discontented members of the ruling Liberal-Reform Party. This new party won the 1924 general election, making its leader Walter Stanley Monroe the new Prime Minister. In practice, the party was essentially a Tory party.
The party was defeated in 1928 under new leader Frederick C. Alderdice, but returned to power in 1932 as the United Newfoundland Party (UNP). The UNP ruled for two years until the suspension of responsible government.
When responsible government was suspended, Newfoundland's status as an independent dominion within the British Empire was brought to an end. The Government of the United Kingdom appointed a Commission of Government to govern Newfoundland, bringing an end to party politics on the island.
Party politics returned to Newfoundland when it joined Canadian confederation in 1949. At this time, the modern Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties were formed. These new parties were unrelated to the parties that existed prior to 1934.Fishermen's Protective Union
The Fishermen's Protective Union (sometimes called the Fisherman's Protective Union, the FPU, The Union or the Union Party) was a workers' organisation and political party in the Dominion of Newfoundland. In many ways, the development of the FPU matched that of the United Farmers movement in parts of Canada.John Chalker Crosbie
Sir John Chalker Crosbie (11 September 1876 – 5 October 1932) was a merchant and politician from the Dominion of Newfoundland.
An aggressive and energetic entrepreneur, he created a fortune (which he lost) and started the Crosbie dynasty. His son, Chesley Crosbie, and grandson, John Crosbie were both affluent politicians. In 1900 Crosbie founded Crosbie and Co. and by 1920 was one of the leading fish exporters in Newfoundland. He entered politics as MHA for Bay de Verde in 1908.
He was Minister of Shipping in 1919 and Minister of Finance and Customs under Prime Minister Walter Monroe from 1924 to 1928.
After Edward Morris resigned at the end of 1917, Crosbie served as Prime Minister in a caretaker capacity until 5 January 1918, when William Lloyd took office.List of lieutenant governors of Newfoundland and Labrador
The following is a list of the Governors and Lieutenant Governors of Newfoundland and later Newfoundland and Labrador. Though the present day office of the lieutenant governor in Newfoundland and Labrador came into being only upon the province's entry into Canadian Confederation in 1949, the post is a continuation from the first governorship of Newfoundland in 1610.List of premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador
The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is current title of the First Minister for the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which was at certain points in its history a colony, dominion, and province. The province had a system of responsible government from 1855 to 1934, and again since 1949. Newfoundland became a British crown colony in 1855, in 1907 it became a dominion, and in 1949, it became a province and joined Canadian Confederation. Since then, the province has been a part of the Canadian federation and has kept its own legislature to deal with provincial matters. The province was named Newfoundland and Labrador in 2001.The province has a unicameral Westminster-style parliamentary government, in which the Premier is the leader of the party that controls the most seats in the House of Assembly. The Premier is Newfoundland and Labrador's head of government, and the Queen of Canada is its head of state and is represented by the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Premier picks a cabinet from the elected members to form the Executive Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, and presides over that body. Members are first elected to the House during general elections. General elections must be conducted every four years from the date of the last election. An election may also take place if the governing party loses the confidence of the legislature by the defeat of a supply bill or tabling of a confidence motion.From 1855 to 1907, the position of first minister was known as Premier. After the colony was granted dominion status, the position became known as Prime Minister. Democratic government was suspended in 1934 and replaced by an appointed Commission of Government, until 1949 Newfoundland became a province of Canada. Since the reinstitution of democratic government in 1949, the position of First Minister has been known as Premier.Since 1855, Newfoundland and Labrador has been led by ten Colonial Premiers, nine Dominion Prime Ministers, three Chairmen of Commission of Government, and twelve Provincial Premiers. Of the Provincial Premiers six are from the Liberal Party, and seven are from the Progressive Conservative Party.Newfoundland People's Party
The Newfoundland People's Party was a political party in the Dominion of Newfoundland before it joined Canada.
The party was created by Attorney-General Edward Patrick Morris in 1907, when he split from the ruling Liberal Party to found his own political vehicle. The party tied with the Liberals in the 1908 election but, when no party was able to form a government, new elections were held which the People's Party won with 26 seats to 10 for the Liberals.
Morris and the People's Party were re-elected in the 1913 election, winning 16 seats compared to 7 for the Liberals and 8 for the Fishermen's Protective Union led by William Coaker.
In 1917, a wartime crisis over conscription resulted in Morris inviting the opposition parties to join in a National Government, which ruled for two years. Morris retired at the end of 1917, and was replaced as People's Party leader by Sir Michael Patrick Cashin.
Cashin's government was defeated in the 1919 election by Richard Squires and his Liberal Reform Party (a merger between the Liberals and the FPU). In opposition, Cashin changed the name of the party to the Liberal-Labour-Progressive Party, which disappeared after the 1923 election. Some members of that party joined Albert Hickman's new Liberal-Progressive Party, and others joined with Tories to form the Liberal-Conservative Progressive Party.
Although not a sectarian party, the People's Party and its immediate successor had their support concentrated among Catholic voters, particularly on the south coast of the island.Newfoundland dollar
The dollar was the currency of the colony and dominion of Newfoundland from 1865 until 1949, when Newfoundland became a province of Canada. It was subdivided into 100 cents.Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador
The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is the first minister, head of government and de facto chief executive for the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Since 1949, the Premier's duties and office has been the successor to the First Ministerial position of the Prime Minister of the former Dominion of Newfoundland. Before 1964, the position's official title was Premier of Newfoundland. From 1964 to 2001 this title continued to be used outside the province.
The Premier is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, as representative of the Queen in Right of Newfoundland and Labrador. He or she is usually the leader of the party that commands a majority in the House of Assembly. The word Premier is derived from the French word of the same spelling, meaning "first"; and ultimately from the Latin word primarius, meaning "primary".The current Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is Dwight Ball, since December 14, 2015.Ralph Champneys Williams
Sir Ralph Champneys Williams (9 March 1848 – 22 June 1927) was a British colonial governor.Responsible Government League
The Responsible Government League was a political movement in the Dominion of Newfoundland.
The Responsible Government League of Newfoundland, led by Peter Cashin, was formed in February 1947 by anti-Confederation delegates to the Newfoundland National Convention on the future of the colony. It was one of several Anti-Confederation movements which suffered intermittent popularity between 1865 and 1948 as the issue of Confederation between the colonies of Newfoundland and Canada was debated.
The purpose of the RGL was to ensure that Newfoundland and Canada remain separate countries.Robert Bartlett (explorer)
Robert "Bob" Abram Bartlett (August 15, 1875 – April 28, 1946) was a Newfoundland-born American Arctic explorer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.United Newfoundland Party
The United Newfoundland Party was the name of two conservative parties in Newfoundland.William Warren
William Robertson Warren (October 9, 1879 – December 31, 1927) was a Newfoundland lawyer, politician and judge who served as the dominion's Prime Minister from July 1923 to April 1924.